How to Tell if You Have Flat Feet


Flat feet—which are also called pes planus, collapsed arches, or fallen arches—are relatively common. While some babies are born with a flat foot, they usually develop a normal arch at some point during childhood. It’s possible to develop flat feet as an adult, and the condition can be either symptom-free or a cause for chronic foot pain and discomfort.

So, how do you know if you have flat feet? Vionic specializes in arch support shoes and orthotics to offer relief from various foot conditions. We’re seasoned in all things pertaining to foot health, and are here to answer your questions about fallen arches. Here’s how to tell if you have flat feet.

Do I Have Flat feet?

Flat feet is a type of foot deformity that happens when your arches touch the ground while you stand upright. This might seem pretty straightforward, but the fallen arch condition isn’t always obvious.

If you’re wondering how to know if you have flat feet, we recommend first reviewing the causes and symptoms. Then you can check with an expert or perform a couple DIY tests to confirm whether you have collapsed arches.

What Causes Flat Feet?

As we mentioned, babies and toddlers often have flat feet because their arches haven’t developed yet. Flexible flatfoot is sometimes seen in children. This is when a normal arch is visible when they stand on their tiptoes but not when standing flat.

While most kids outgrow painful flat feet, some individuals will never develop a high arch. This may or may not create pain, discomfort, or other foot problems. In other cases, flat feet are developed over time.

Contributing factors of flat feet include:

  • The natural aging process
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Injury
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tendonitis

As we age, the muscles and tendons that support our feet begin to weaken. This can lead to fallen arches over time. Similarly, injuring your entire foot, ankle, leg, or hip can put stress on your joints and contribute to a flattened arch area.

Symptoms of Flat Feet

Wondering how to know if you are flat footed? While a lot of people don’t show any rigid flat foot symptoms, there are various signs that can indicate whether you have a flat foot condition.

If you have flat feet, you might:

  • Regularly experience entire foot or heel pain
  • Experience worsened pain with physical activity
  • Frequently swell around your ankles or the bottoms of your feet
  • Have achy or inflamed arches
  • Tire easily on your lower extremities
  • Have a hard time standing on your toes or flexing your feet
  • Experience pain in your back, legs, or hips
  • Have alignment issues or poor balance

Even if you don’t experience any of these problems, there’s still a chance you have painful flat feet. However, if the condition doesn’t cause any ailments, you might not need to treat it.

The Standing Test

As we touched on above, the primary indication of flat feet is when the entire sole of your bare foot touches the floor you’re standing on. If you’ve tried the standing test but still aren’t totally sure if your arches are collapsed, you’ve got a couple more options.

The Wet-Foot Test

The wet-foot test is similar to the standing test, except it’s usually easier to get a clear picture of how your arches lie.¹ Here’s how it works:

  1. Make sure you have a flat surface that will clearly show a wet footprint. If you’re indoors, newspaper or paper grocery bags can work, as long as the moisture won’t damage your floors. If you’re outdoors, dry concrete is a good surface.
  2. Get your feet wet (in the bath, shower, with a hose, etc.)
  3. Step onto the dry, flat surface with both feet, and be sure to stand up as straight as possible.
  4. Step off the surface and observe your footprints.

If the entire outlines of your feet are filled in, you probably have fallen arches. But if there’s empty space between your heels and the pads of your feet, your arches are likely normal. You might want to take a picture of your footprints so you can get a close look before they dry.

An Expert Opinion

Though the condition can typically be self-diagnosed, the best way to find out for sure if you have flat feet is to get an expert opinion. A podiatrist (foot doctor) can evaluate your feet, run some tests, and provide you with a diagnosis. You can expect them to perform a visual exam and potentially some imaging tests.²

A visual exam for flat feet may include:

  • The wet-foot test, as outlined above
  • A footwear inspection to check the areas of your shoes with the most wear and tear
  • An inspection of how your toes pronate out to the sides
  • A tiptoe test to determine whether you have flexible flat feet (arches show sometimes) or rigid flat feet (arches never appear)

Imaging tests usually involve X-rays or CT scans to check for abnormalities in the shape, angle, or alignment of the bones in your feet. In some cases, ultrasounds are used to provide detailed imagery of damaged soft tissue. MRIs can show damage in the bones and soft tissues as well, especially for those with tendonitis, rheumatoid arthritis, or an injured Achilles tendon.

If your podiatrist diagnoses you with fallen arches, they might be able to provide you with some insight about the underlying cause. If needed, they may also discuss treatment options or refer you to a physical therapist.


Supportive Footwear and Orthotic Inserts from Vionic

Footwear can help fix flat feet pain. In many instances, podiatrists recommend supportive footwear or orthotic inserts for people with flat feet.³ Even if you haven’t had an official diagnosis, the right arch support shoes or inserts can provide substantial foot benefits, and there’s no risk in trying them out.

But what are the best shoes for flat feet? Vionic carries insoles designed to provide relief from foot pain and discomfort, allowing you to wear your favorite shoes all day, any day. We also have a wide selection of men’s and women’s footwear with built-in orthotics support. To accommodate those with fallen arches, our shoes come in whole, and half sizes, and many women’s shoe styles are available in wide widths.

Our shoe insoles and shoes are engineered to offer relief from symptoms associated with flat feet, as well as other foot conditions, like plantar fasciitis, heel pain, shin splints, heel spurs, and Morton’s neuroma. From dress shoes and ankle boots to slippers, flats, and heels, we have it all. Shop our collections today.


1. Carol DerSarkissian. “What Are Fallen Arches?”. WebMD. Mar 07, 2020,
2. “Flatfeet”. Mayo Clinic.
3. Kim, Eun-Kyung, and Jin Seop Kim. “The effects of short foot exercises and arch support insoles on improvement in the medial longitudinal arch and dynamic balance of flexible flatfoot patients.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 28,11 (2016): 3136-3139. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3136

2 Responses to “ How to Tell if You Have Flat Feet ”

  1. Joan Karasinski

    Are Vionic walking sneakers good if you have pain in the ball of your feet?

    • Thanks for reaching out! We always recommend consulting with a podiatrist as they can best assess your health needs and recommend a footwear brand that will offer options to best suit your needs. All of our shoes and sandals were designed to hug your arches like a natural footprint, giving you all-day support. You can find more information on our Vio-Motion Support here:

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