woman stretches her calf for flat feet relief

Flat Feet: Causes, Symptoms, and How the Right Sandals Can Help

by Mark Paigen 16 minute read

Do you experience aching and fatigue in your feet after long periods of walking? Does your arch touch the floor, such that it’s difficult for you to stand on tiptoes?

Growing up, you may also have noted that you couldn’t keep up with the others during walks, and it wasn’t until later that you discovered you have flat feet.

Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, is a medical condition characterized by collapsed or missing arches on the feet. This condition affects people around the world and can cause discomfort and pain in some cases.

But there’s a solution. A pair of sandals for flat feet will provide your feet with a contoured footbed, extra padding, and a stable base that will give you greater stability while walking or standing.

The Basics

  • Flat feet are caused by factors such as genetics, trauma from injuries, pregnancy, and medical conditions affecting the bones or tissues.
  • Symptoms are evident by the pain and discomfort in the arch, heel, or ankle, which may spread to the upper legs and lower back.
  • Tread Labs Sandals for flat feet provide arch support, proper cushioning, shock absorption, and other features that help you manage flat feet.
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Table of Contents

What Are Flat Feet?

Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, is a condition where the arches of the feet are either flattened or absent. The condition is prevalent, with approximately 8% of adults in the US lacking arches since birth, and 4% having acquired them over time.

The rest of the world is not left out either. There are even interesting historical stories surrounding flat feet in some cultures.

It’s believed that in ancient Egypt, Pharaohs and the high priests revered flat feet. They believed they were a divine blessing from the gods. In fact, it’s believed that the great Pharaoh Rameses II had flat feet that were the source of his victory in battle.

In modern times, flat feet aren’t considered a divine blessing anymore, but neither are they a stumbling block that should interfere with your daily activities. If the story is true, then Pharaoh’s great victory in battle was gained on flat feet.

While some people with flat feet may not even notice the change in their foot shape, others experience problems throughout their entire body, especially if left untreated.

That’s because the arches serve an essential role in foot function. They act as shock absorbers that flatten and expand with each step to reduce the impact.

Additionally, they distribute body weight evenly across the feet, which helps to maintain balance and stability. When the arches are flattened, the feet become misaligned, leading to several issues throughout the body.

What Are the Causes of Flat Feet?

Flat feet result in symptoms such as pain and discomfort in the feet, legs, hips, and lower back. Therefore, understanding the causes is crucial to taking the necessary steps that will prevent or treat the condition.

Here are the causes of flat feet:

Inherited From the Bloodline

Flat feet can be an inherited trait that’s passed down generations. If one or both parents have flat feet, it’s more likely that their children will also have them. This is due to the fact that the structure of the foot is determined by genetic factors.

However, it's essential to note that not all children of parents with flat feet will develop them. The formation of flat feet is not straightforward and can be influenced by other non-genetic factors, such as lifestyle, the environment, injuries, or medical conditions.

It’s crucial for individuals to understand their family history concerning flat feet and to be aware of how the symptoms manifest.

If a person is aware that they have a family history of flat feet, they’ll be motivated to take steps that prevent or manage the condition, such as wearing appropriate footwear with proper arch support.

Trauma From Accidents or Sport Injuries

Injuries to the foot or ankle can damage the bones, ligaments, and tendons that support the arches of the feet.

When these structures are weakened or torn, arch problems such as collapsing occur, leading to flat feet. The most common types of injuries that can cause flat feet include:

  • Fractures: If left untreated, a fracture in any of the bones near the arch can cause flat feet. Fractures are usually caused by trauma or impact to the foot, such as a fall or a sports injury.
  • Sprains: A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament in the foot or ankle. When a ligament is injured, it can no longer support the arch, leading to the collapse of the arch and the development of flat feet.
  • Dislocations: Dislocations occur when a joint in the foot or ankle is forced out of its normal position. This happens due to a fall or sports injury. When a joint is dislocated, the ligaments supporting the arch can be stretched or torn.
  • Tendonitis: Tendons are fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bones. Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, which causes pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected foot. Tendinitis can weaken the tendons that support the arch.

It's important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have a foot or ankle injury. Prompt treatment can prevent further damage or development of flat feet.

Disorders in the Bones, Muscles, and Tissues

Medical conditions that can cause flat feet include health issues that impact the muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the feet. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: It’s an autoimmune disorder that attacks the joints and results in inflammation and pain. The inflammation weakens the tendons and ligaments that support the arches of the feet, leading to flat feet.
  • Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle tone, coordination, and motor function. The condition can also affect the muscles and tendons that support the arches.
  • Muscular dystrophy: Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness and degeneration. The muscles in the feet that support the arches weaken over time.
  • Tarsal coalition: This is a rare condition where two or more bones in the feet are abnormally joined together, limiting motion and causing flat feet.
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction: This condition affects the tendon that supports the arch of the foot. Damage or inflammation weakens it and prevents it from supporting the arch.

It's essential to note that while these medical conditions can cause flat feet, they’re just a contributing factor and not a guarantee that you’ll develop flat feet.

Regular check-ups and communication with a medical professional will enable you to identify potential risk factors and address them promptly.

Pressure From Excessive Weight Gain

Obesity or excessive weight gain puts immense pressure on the feet, causing the arches to flatten and eventually lead to flat feet.

When the arches flatten, the foot becomes less stable and there’s an uneven distribution of weight across it. Over time, this causes other foot problems such as heel spurs.

The excess weight also puts undue stress on the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. This inflames it and results in plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes heel pain especially in the morning.

Moreover, overweight individuals tend to walk differently than those with a healthy weight. The extra weight on the foot changes the way an individual's foot strikes the ground. It causes the inward rolling motion known as overpronation.

Overpronation can lead to additional strain on the foot's ligaments and tendons and increase the risk of developing flat feet.

Learn More: Our previous article outlines the importance of arch support in sandals for overpronation.

Preventing or managing flat feet caused by obesity requires maintaining a healthy weight. If you're overweight, a weight loss program will help you cut down some weight which in turn reduces the stress on your feet.

Additionally, wearing supportive shoes, such as orthopedic sandals with arch support will help you to alleviate the pain and discomfort of flat feet.

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy

pregnant woman practicing yoga

Pregnancy is a time when a woman's body undergoes many changes, and the feet are not exempted. During pregnancy, a woman's body gains weight to support the developing baby.

This weight gain puts extra pressure on the feet. The arches flatten as a result and could result in flat feet. In some cases, the additional pressure on the feet during pregnancy leads to the development of plantar fasciitis (heel pain).

Bonus Tip: Are you wondering whether insoles help reduce pain and heal plantar fasciitis? Find out if they do in this article.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy, specifically the hormone relaxin, can also contribute to flat feet. Relaxin is a hormone that relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis to prepare the body for childbirth.

However, this hormone can also affect the ligaments in the feet, making them more flexible and causing the arches to flatten.

It’s essential for pregnant women to wear sandals with proper arch support to help alleviate the pressure on the feet and prevent or minimize the development of flat feet.

Medical professionals may also recommend exercises or stretches that can help strengthen the foot muscles and prevent the progression of flat feet.

Symptoms of Flat Feet

Flat feet can cause a range of symptoms that affect the feet, legs and even the lower back. The most common symptom of flat feet is pain or discomfort, which can be experienced anywhere from the arch, heel, or ankle.

This discomfort worsens when standing or walking for long periods especially in shoes that don't provide adequate support.

Say you’re an adventurer trekking through the woods. If you have flat feet and don’t have supportive sandals on, soon enough you’ll start experiencing pain and discomfort in the arch area as your feet walk on different terrains.

Supportive sandals such as the Men’s Albion and the Women’s Albion sandals will give you relief from the symptoms of flat feet.

leaf Men’s Albion Sandal


black Women’s Albion Sandal


In addition to pain, other symptoms of flat feet include swelling and stiffness in the foot and ankle. Swelling usually occurs on the inner side of the foot, near the ankle.

This is due to the ligaments and tendons being stretched, owing to the lack of arch support. The stiffness can make it difficult for individuals with flat feet to move their feet and walk around.

Another common symptom of flat feet is a reduced ability to stand on tiptoes. Do you experience that when you try to reach a high shelf? This is because lack of arch support means that the foot can’t properly push itself off the ground and help you onto your tiptoes.

If left untreated, flat feet can have a range of negative effects on the body including:

  • Knee and hip issues: When the feet roll inwards due to flat arches, they cause the lower legs and knees to also turn inward. This misalignment causes pain, discomfort, and uneven wear on the joints, potentially resulting in arthritis.
  • Balance and stability: Improperly aligned feet can make it difficult to maintain balance while standing or walking, increasing the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Posture: The body may compensate for the lack of support in the feet by changing its posture, leading to poor alignment of the spine, pain, and discomfort in the back and neck.
  • Overuse injuries and muscle strains: Without proper arch support, the body may compensate by overusing certain muscles and cause strains and injuries.

Proper treatment and care, along with supportive footwear like orthopedic sandals helps prevent these potential issues and alleviate the symptoms of flat feet.

Prevention and Treatment of Flat Feet

Flat feet can be prevented and managed with the right approach. Here are some detailed tips to consider:

  • Regular physical activity helps manage flat feet. It’s recommended that you engage in low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, yoga, or stretching exercises that can strengthen the muscles supporting the feet.
  • Custom inserts provide extra support and reduce pain and discomfort caused by flat feet. They’re prescribed by a podiatrist or purchased over the counter. Special footwear such as motion control shoes are also useful as they offer extra stability.
  • In some cases, flat feet cause severe pain, discomfort, and other issues that may require medical attention. It's essential to seek medical help if you experience persistent foot pain, swelling, or difficulty walking, running, or standing for an extended period.

The Sandal Solution: How the Right Features Help You Find Your Stride

Did you cancel your summer vacation or refuse to go hiking due to the pain and discomfort caused by flat feet?

We dare you to try our ridiculously comfortable Tread Labs Sandals with Arch Support. With supportive sandals such as these, you can now go for that tropical paradise vacation you’ve been postponing.

Sandals are a great option for those with flat feet, but it's important to choose the right ones. Look for sandals that provide arch support to help alleviate any discomfort and pain caused by flat feet.

There are several characteristics to look for when searching for the best sandals for flat feet, which include:

Arch Support to Lift Your Arches

man sitting on a chair wearing Tread Labs mens Albion sandals

When it comes to sandals for flat feet, arch support is one of the most important features to look for. It helps to alleviate the stress on the foot's arches, which is especially important if you have flat feet, because you lack the natural arch support other people have.

To understand arch support better, think of it like a suspension bridge. Just like its cables support the weight of the roadway, so does arch support help to distribute your weight, reducing the amount of stress on one area of your foot.

This helps to prevent pain and inflammation in the arch of the foot, which is a common issue for those with flat feet.

When looking for sandals with arch support, there are several options to consider. Some sandals feature removable insoles while others have built-in arch support, which is molded into the footbed of the sandal.

Expert Tip: How do you decide between pace insoles and dash insoles? This article serves as an explainer on the best insole for flat feet and overpronation.

Tread Labs flat feet sandals with built-in arch support provide you with perfectly proportioned arch support to improve the alignment of your feet. They improve your overall posture and gait, which further reduces pain and discomfort in your feet, legs, and lower back.

With better arch support, you’ll find that your posture improves. If you previously had a slouched posture, now you’ll walk straighter, because when your feet are aligned, your knees, pelvis, and back soon follow suit.

Cushioning That Absorbs Shock

Just like a good mattress keeps your back smiling, so is good cushioning to flat feet. Choosing sandals with a comfortable and supportive footbed will prevent the discomfort caused by improper cushioning.

Proper cushioning takes care of other foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, a painful condition in the heel. It also prevents inflammation of the Achilles tendon that causes tendonitis.

While memory foam is a popular choice for cushioning in sandals, it may not be the best option for those with flat feet. Instead, it's important to look for sandals with more substantial padding that can absorb shock better and provide more support.

One material that provides excellent cushioning is microfiber suede. We use it for our podiatrist recommended sandals, such as the Women’s Covelo Sandals and the Men’s Covelo Sandals.

fire Women’s Covelo SandalBUY NOW

yolk Men’s Covelo SandalBUY NOW

Microfiber suede is a smooth and cool material that feels comfortable, and we’ve also treated it with an antimicrobial agent to keep the sandals fresh.

Please note that not all brands treat their cushioning materials.

If you enjoy an active lifestyle, you know just how much you need good cushioning. With your feet properly supported, you'll move more fluidly because you have better control and balance.

Adjustable Straps for a Customized Fit

Feet come in all shapes and sizes, and it's important to find sandals that can be adjusted to fit your specific foot shape.

Sandals with adjustable straps are especially crucial if your feet swell after long periods of standing or walking. This feature makes a significant difference in the level of comfort you experience while standing.

Have you ever worn sandals with non-adjustable straps that you couldn’t loosen to relieve your swollen feet? So you ended up with balloons instead of feet, and couldn’t wait to get home, take off the sandals, and “deflate” your feet.

A good sandal with adjustable straps will prevent such a scenario. On the other hand, it allows you to tighten the fit to prevent your feet from sliding side to side in the sandal, which is not fun at all.

All our sandals have adjustable straps, but if you want extra grip at the back of your foot, the Men’s Albion and Women’s Albion sandals have a backstrap.

Additionally, they have attractive aluminum buckles. You’ll love them for they’re easy to adjust with a single pull. No more wasting time trying to adjust one buckle.

These buckles are also corrosion resistant, and so you don't have to worry about rusty buckles if your sandals get wet.

Infact, our sandals are not afraid of water—they’re machine washable, and because the buckles and straps are firm, they won’t come off in the machine.

We’ve attached them firmly because we know the disappointment of finding buttons and buckles in the laundry machine.

Midsoles for Cushioning and Outsoles for Traction

A firm sole provides the necessary support to absorb impact while you’re walking. The shock, if not absorbed, is a very likely cause of discomfort and pain on flat feet.

Would you rather live in a house with a strong foundation that withstands earthquakes, or a house with a weak foundation that crumbles at the slightest tremor? Of course you would choose the strong foundation.

The same principle applies to a firm midsole on a sandal. It absorbs the earthquake tremors—in your case the shock from the ground as you walk—and distributes it to the whole foot, taking the pressure off the collapsed arch.

The best midsoles are those that combine shock absorption and durability, while still remaining lightweight. You don’t want anvils for sandals, where every step you take is a workout.

For our flat feet sandals, we use polyurethane and Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA). These midsoles offer the comfort and weightlessness of EVA foam but with the added durability of polyurethane.

Which means they'll provide your feet with the necessary support and shock absorption without constantly weighing you down.

The second type of sole to consider is the outsole. Look for sandals with a firm sole because just like the midsole, an outsole gives your feet firm support and also absorbs impact. We use rubber outsoles on our sandals due to their durability and traction.

Speaking of traction, it’s a necessary feature on outsoles since it ensures stability and prevents you from slipping or falling.

All our flat feet sandals have tread marks with an arrowhead design. Actually the tread mark shape has a lot to do with the traction the sandal offers. This may come as a surprise to you because most people think that the shape of a tread mark is just aesthetic.

In the case of our triangular tread marks, the arrowhead acts just like an arrow. It helps the sole to “cut through” soil, gravel, and other surfaces to give you a better grip.

Now that you know, next time you’re shopping for sandals you’ll have more fun looking at the different tread mark designs and guessing their function.

Another thing is to look for sandals with outsoles that can be resoled. You can find out by asking at the store. We encourage resoling because we believe in lessening our environmental impact by lengthening the lifecycle of your sandals.

And who can resole your sandals better than internationally recognized Dave Page Cobbler Repair Services? They've been a leader in footwear repair since 1969.

So, find sandals with a firm midsole and outsole, and you’ll be steps ahead in preventing flat feet from interfering with your activities.

A Minimalistic Design That Focuses on Efficiency

Design simplicity in sandals means a minimalist approach in construction and styling, where there are no excessive embellishments, but only effective support and cushioning.

Surprisingly, the most challenging designs to make are those with the fewest elements because the focus is on providing precise proportions that offer the best support.

Our sandals are a design aesthetic that removes anything superfluous, leaving clean, inspired footwear. We believe that your life is complex enough, so we keep your footwear simple.

Want to know how we achieve design simplicity? Direct attach construction is our method. It’s a technique that creates a strong, long-lasting bond between the upper part of the sandal and the sole.

Unlike other construction methods that rely on glue or stitching, direct attach construction uses heat and pressure to mold the upper and the sole into a single unit, creating a seamless and durable bond.

This technique offers several advantages such as improved comfort, durability, and support. By eliminating the need for glue or stitching, direct attach construction creates a cleaner and simpler design that is visually appealing.

Tread Labs sandals are assembled using direct attach construction. Compared to the other less durable methods, it’s more flexible and has a more natural feel when walking.

Additionally, the absence of glue or stitching means there are no hard or abrasive materials that can rub against the skin and cause irritation.

Direct attach construction also provides better stability and support for the foot. The molded construction creates a more uniform surface that supports the foot evenly and reduces the risk of rolling or twisting, which is important if you have flat feet.

Our Selection of the Best Sandals to Fix Flat Feet

man in yolk Tread Labs Covelo Sandal

Tread Labs offers a range of men and women’s sandals that are designed to provide excellent arch support and cushioning, making them a great choice for flat feet.

Here are four of our most popular sandals:

1 - Women’s Albion Sandal

The Women’s Albion Sandal is designed with amazing arch support housed in a lightweight design. Its anatomically sculpted footbed is perfect for all foot shapes including those with high arches, and the soft knit uppers conform to your feet for a custom fit.

The Microfiber Suede is silky smooth under your feet, making these sandals a great option for flat feet, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis.

“I love these sandals. I have plantars fasciitis and need good foot support. I have worn these sandals for extensive periods of time without any discomfort, I'm very pleased with them, and look forward to using them all summer long.”
- Lexi, Verified Buyer, Idaho Falls, United States

2 - Women’s Covelo Sandal

Our Women’s Covelo Sandal is a slip-on design that offers an unbelievably comfortable arch. These soft sandals may be lightweight, but they provide extra stability and the support needed for flat feet.

The soft and durable knit uppers are made from 100% recycled materials, making them an eco-friendly option for anyone wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

3 - Men’s Covelo Sandal

The men’s version of the Covelo Sandal is just as comfortable and supportive as the women’s. These sandals offer amazing arch support, thanks to Tread Labs’ years of experience with soles.

The sporty midsole and replaceable rubber outsole provide excellent cushioning and support, making them perfect for you if you have flat feet.

“The micro-suede top cover on the sole is a phenomenal touch; not a time I slide into them do I not immediately appreciate the buttery smooth underfoot feel. Combined with the subtle arch support & solid platform, they really are an incredible everyday or post-workout recovery sandal option you will feel and look good wearing.”
- Juris, Verified Buyer, Eden, United States

4 - Men’s Albion Sandal

The Albion sandal for men is a great option for men with flat feet. The anatomic footbeds provide incredible arch support and bring relief to those who experience pain and discomfort.

The extra lightweight polyurethane (PU) midsoles deliver the resiliency and durability of PU with the weightlessness of EVA foam, making these sandals ideal for cushioning and supporting your feet.

Flat Feet? No Problem: Find Relief With Tread Labs Sandals for Flat Feet

Flat feet can cause a variety of foot-related issues such as arch pain, foot strain, tendonitis, and even plantar fasciitis.

Here is a brief video explaining what plantar fasciitis is:

However, by taking steps such as wearing the right footwear, you’ll help to prevent and manage these issues before they progress.

With flat feet sandals, you’ll no longer miss out on fun activities, because you’ll have no more aching feet to nurse at the end of the day.

If you're searching for high-quality sandals designed with flat feet in mind, then arch support, cushioning, adjustability, and firm soles are helpful features to look for.

At Tread Labs, we design sandals that support your arches all day. They have a cool and dry microfiber suede footbed, adjustable straps, and a firm rubber sole.

If you’re in the US, we invite you to visit any of our brick-and-mortar stores and try out how our sandals feel on your feet before buying. You won’t be disappointed.

Our focus is on insole support, so you can trust that our sandals will provide the comfort and support your feet need. Don't let flat feet hold you back. With the right sandals, you’ll keep moving comfortably and confidently.

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