Pes planus

Last revised by Chesterlee Ocampo on 27 Mar 2024

Pes planus (plural: pedes plani) is a deformity of the foot where the longitudinal arch of the foot is abnormally flattened and can be congenital or acquired. 

Pes planus is also known as flatfoot, planovalgus foot or fallen arches 7.

Pes planus may occur in up to 20% of the adult population, although the majority of patients are asymptomatic and require no treatment. Approximately 10% (range 7-15%) of the population with developmental flatfoot go on to develop symptoms requiring medical attention 7.

There are several conditions associated with pes planus 1,2:

There is some evidence to suggest that flat feet increases the risk of stress fractures 10.

Pes planus can be 7:

In the pediatric population, the degree of ligamentous laxity of the foot results in relative pes planus that resolves over time 5. Within the first decade, there is spontaneous development of a strong arch in most people 7.

Pes planus results from loss of the medial longitudinal arch and can be either rigid or flexible. These deformities are usually flexible, which means that on non-weight-bearing views, the alignment of the plantar arch normalizes.

The longitudinal arch of the foot must be assessed on a weight-bearing lateral foot radiograph. If the patient is unable to stand or weight-bear, a simulated weight-bearing radiograph should be obtained.

In normal feet, the relationship between the talus and the 1st metatarsal results in a straight line being formed along their axes (i.e. normal Meary's angle = 0°). Pes planus, in contrast, will show 7:

It is important to assess:

Acquired pes planus (i.e. foot collapse) can be distinguished from congenital pes planus by carefully assessing the calcaneus and midtarsal joint: 6

  • in the acquired form, the calcaneal pitch is at least 10°; in congenital pes planus it is less

  • in the acquired form, the calcaneus is downwards-concave; in the congenital form it is downwards-convex or flat

  • in the acquired form, the midtarsal joint is altered by a forward-jutting talus; in the congenital form the talus is medially displaced, but the midtalar line appears normal (i.e. it is pseudonormal)

Treatment depends on whether:

  • there are symptoms

  • it is fixed or mobile

  • there are associated findings, e.g. hindfoot valgus

  • there is any associated pathology

Subtalar arthroereisis can be performed in pediatric symptomatic flexible flatfoot. In fixed flatfoot, non-operative management is unlikely to be beneficial since there is a fixed relationship between osseous structures.

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