A person with fallen arches (flat feet) has low foot arches or no arches at all.
Feet are very variable in shape within and between ethnic groups as well as in populations generally. There is not a normal profile but a wide variation with people with foot profiles at the extremes being very high arched or very low arched, with most people somewhere nearer the middle. What will dictate the general profile of a foot is the bony shape and the soft tissue support.
The first thing to say about flat feet and fallen arches is that they are not medical terms and therefore have different meaning to different people. Therefore this question is not as easy as it first might seem. Pes Planus is the medical term for flat feet.
What type of foot do I have?
There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint.
The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print.
Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is
- less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches.
- more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal
- more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet
Next you will need to assess which type of flat foot you have.
Anatomical Flat Feet
Anatomical flat feet look flat when you are sitting, and look pretty much the same when you stand. They will also have always been flat as long as you can remember.
Acquired Flat Feet
Acquired flat feet will look and behave the same as anatomical, except the foot profile often becomes noticeably flatter when standing, and you may remember your feet used to look higher arched in the past. Acquired flat feet are also far more likely to produce symptoms. You may also get foot pains if you had high arched feet (Pes Cavus), which are now getting lower, but this rarely occurs before the age of 40 and is more likely to happen at ages of 50 and upwards.
Collapsing Pes Plano Valgus
Collapsing Pes Plano Valgus is usually associated with a lot of pain. This pain is most common on the inside of the ankle, the inside of the arch of the foot and sometimes in front of the ankle to the outside of the foot. This is a serious condition, and you may notice that your foot starts to change shape. If you are getting pains as described especially if you notice your feet getting flat, seek professional advice immediately.
Hyper Mobile Flat Feet
Hyper mobile flat feet are usually identified because you are very mobile elsewhere. Usually it’s noticed in the hands or wrists first because you can bend your fingers back too far or your wrist. Elbows ands knees often over extend. There are often other family members with the same condition.
Unfortunately although not everyone with hyper mobility gets joint pains a significant number are plagued with multiple joint pains and feet are often affected. Hyper mobile feet usually look normal non-weight bearing, but on weight bearing they become very flat. Also the plantar surfaces of the feet can be brought totally together, as if you are praying with your feet.
Excessive pronation is the most common type of foot flattening. As mention pronation consists of the foot rolling in on the heel, the arch dropping and the forefoot spreading out. Most people who have too much of these movements will have normal shaped feet when not weight bearing. However people with anatomical flat feet can also pronate too much. Their flat feet become flatter on standing.
People who pronate too much, can in later life develop acquired flat feet, while over strain of some tendons can be caused by excess pronation, resulting in flattening feet. To confuse the situation, some people only pronate too much during certain periods of walking, such as pushing off one foot, or just when they run. The best way to assess this foot type is by elimination. If you don’t fit the other foot types then most likely your flat feet are due to excess pronation.