Having a flat foot isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many people with flat feet lead perfectly healthy and active lives. But it’s also perfectly normal for people and yourself to ask:

“Can flat feet cause knee pain?”

And the answer to that is yes, it can. This is usually only the case if it’s left untreated which can cause other foot problems.

The question now is, what causes flat feet and how does it contribute to the development of knee problems and foot pain? All these and more in this blog. To start, let’s discuss the different foot types.

Foot Types

Your foot type can be divided into three categories: flat feet, normal arches, and higher arches.

Normal Arches

People with normal arches usually have a mild to moderate inward curve at the arch of their foot. This inward curve helps to absorb shock and distribute your body weight evenly as you walk or run.

If you have normal arches, you may be able to see a space between your foot and the floor when you are standing. However, this space should not be too large.

Higher Arches

Those with higher arches often experience pain in their lower leg. This is because the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, is under constant tension.

Over time, this leads to inflammation, joint pain, and other problems. In some cases, people with high arches may need to seek treatment from a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. 

Flat Feet

In contrast, having a flat foot (pes planus) means that the arches of your feet aren’t as pronounced as they should be. Genetics, body weight, years of wear and tear, or injury are factors that can contribute to the development of pes planus.

Some symptoms of flat feet include:

  • Leg cramps
  • Pain in walking
  • Toe drift
  • Fatigue in legs or feet

While pes planus isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, it can also lead to lower back pain and hip pain. Pes planus also has two types:  flexible flat feet and rigid flat feet.

The former is when the arch of the foot collapses, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into contact with the ground. It can lead to knee joint pain, lower body pain, and back pain.

On the other hand, rigid flat feet are when the feet do not have the necessary arch support. This can cause unnecessary stress on the legs and feet, as well as extra motion in the joints. In severe cases, it can even lead to deformity.

Flat Feet Can Be a Symptom

Having a flat foot or feet can be a symptom of a number of different conditions, all of which can lead to pain and difficulty walking.

One common condition is a tight Achilles tendon, which can cause the foot to flatten out. This can lead to cartilage damage and plantar fasciitis. It’s where the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed.

Flat feet can also cause shin splints. This is when the muscles and tendons around the shin become strained and painful.


Can Flat Feet Cause Knee Pain?

Flat feet can also cause knee pain because of the way it changes the alignment of your legs. When you have flat feet, your ankles roll inward and this can put unnecessary stress on your knees. If the condition is severe, a CT scan may be necessary to determine the cause of the imbalance.

A recent study published in the Journal of Arthritis Care & Research found that people with flat feet are more likely to develop arthritis in the knee than those with normal foot anatomy. The study looked at data from over 3,000 adults aged 45 and older and found those with flat feet were nearly 50% more likely to develop knee arthritis than those without flat feet. The link between flat feet and knee arthritis was even stronger in overweight and obese individuals.

While this study does not prove that flat feet cause knee arthritis, it does show that there’s an association between the two. If you have flat feet, be sure to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of developing arthritis.

How to Treat Flat Feet

If you have flat feet, you may be looking for ways to treat them and improve the appearance of your feet. While there is no cure for flat feet, there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms and make your feet look and feel better. 

Arch supports

One simple way to alleviate pain is to use supportive shoes or shoe inserts. These devices help to support the arch of the foot and can be found at most drugstores. Orthotic insoles can also support the arch.

Custom orthotics

Custom orthotics are another thing you can try. Orthotic devices are made from molds of the feet and provide greater support than arch supports. Foot orthotics help relieve pain in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. However, it can be expensive, but many insurance plans will cover part or all of the cost.


Another treatment option for flat feet is to do stretching exercises. These can strengthen the muscles and tendons around the foot and ankle. One simple exercise you can do is to sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.

Physical activity

For most people, physical activity is the best way to treat flat feet. By strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the foot, physical activity can help support the arch and reduce pain. Walking, running, and swimming are all great exercises for flat feet.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Anti-inflammatory medication can be used to relieve pain and swelling. These drugs reduce swelling and pain by inhibiting the production of inflammation-causing substances in the body.

Common examples of anti-inflammatory medication include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. 


Physical therapy

Physical therapy is another option for treating flat feet. A physical therapist can provide exercises and stretches to help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the foot. They can also create a custom orthotic device if necessary.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct flat feet. However, this is usually only recommended if other treatments have been unsuccessful in alleviating pain.

A Flat Foot is Normal

For many people, having a flat foot can seem like a hindrance. Whether it’s due to reduced mobility or simply the way they were born, flat feet can often be seen as a negative trait.

However, it’s important to remember that having a flat foot doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, many people with flat feet lead perfectly normal and meaningful lives.

While some may not be able to run as fast or jump as high as someone with high arches, they’re still able to participate in daily activities and enjoy all the experiences life has to offer. Others live perfectly normal athletic lives, and many such athletes make it to the professional ranks!


About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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