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Fact-check: Does having flat feet bring health problems?

Does having flat feet make you more susceptible to health problems?
Does having flat feet make you more susceptible to health problems? Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By James Thomas
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For years, the general population has believed that people with flat feet are more likely to develop future pain and musculoskeletal issues. The Cube takes a look at a study claiming that this isn't the case after all.


The idea that having flat feet inevitably leads to pain or other musculoskeletal problems goes back centuries.

It was revived during the second half of the 1900s, when US podiatrists popularised the notion of having ‘normal’ feet.

This included the theory that not having a well-defined arch or a straight heel would make your feet abnormal and more prone to injury, because they would experience greater arch flattening while walking, for example.

However, researchers at the University of Québec in Trois-Rivières in Canada claim that the theory is unfounded.

They conducted an editorial study, reviewing the body of research surrounding flat fleet, and found that there was virtually no link between having flat feet and the chance of developing a musculoskeletal disorder such as heel, knee or hip pain.

"If we look at the literature, having flat feet makes you have a higher risk of I think three or four pathologies, that's it," said Gabriel Moisan, professor in podiatric medicine and one of the authors of the study. "But if we take straighter feet, you would be more at risk of developing, let's say three or four other pathologies, and for high arch feet, it will be four different also."

The myth that flat feet make you more likely to develop injuries has often resulted in people having unnecessary medical interventions, and significant concerns among patients about the appearance of their feet.

In fact, asymptomatic flat feet generally don’t need any treatment, according to the study, the authors of which want to set the record straight.

Having flat feet is normal. It's an anatomical variant. You just need to be comfortable with it.
Gabriel Moisan
Professor in podiatric medicine, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Moisan said that first off, universities need to stop teaching physiotherapists, podiatrists and general practitioners that having flat feet is a problem that will invariably lead to health issues later down the line.

"Then we need to translate or disseminate this information to the clinical world. Because once your studies are over, it's harder to disseminate information," he said. "So clinicians need to stop spreading these misconceptions to their patients.

The hardest part will be convincing people that their flat feet are not problematic, according to Moisan, but he assures patients not to worry about them.

"Having flat feet is normal. It's an anatomical variant. You just need to be comfortable with it," he said. 

"You're not more at risk of developing pathologies than someone with - I hate to 'say normal' - let's say rectus or straighter feet," Moisan added. "That's what I tell my patients."

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