Whether your child’s flat feet are a problem or not initially depends on their age. It is perfectly normal for a child under the age of four to have completely flat feet. In other words, there is no arch, and every part of the foot touches the ground when they stand. You might notice that their bare footprint in the sand, for example, does not curve where your footprint curves. However, most children should have developed an arch by the time they are five or six. If your child has not, it might be a good idea to consult a pediatric foot doctor to rule out a serious problem.
Why Does My Child Have Flat Feet?
About 30 percent of the adult population has flat feet, so it is fairly common. While people with flat feet can eventually experience more ankle, knee, and back pain than people with normal arches, the condition doesn’t usually require any treatment beyond wearing certain kinds of shoes or using orthotic shoe inserts. Most children with flat feet probably have them because a parent or grandparent had them. However, in some cases, flat feet in children can indicate another problem.
When Flat Feet Can Cause Problems
If you notice that your school-age child still has flat feet, we recommend mentioning it to your pediatrician or scheduling an evaluation with a pediatric foot specialist. A doctor can assess the child’s foot and leg anatomy to determine if something more concerning is causing the flat feet. Certainly, you should see a doctor as soon as possible if your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Calf pain
- Leg tiredness after activity
- Walking with an unusual gait
- Uneven wear on their shoes
- Complaints about foot, ankle, or knee pain
- Avoidance of physical activity
It can be hard for a young child to explain what is causing their pain or discomfort, but a foot specialist can examine them to determine the cause and rule out conditions such as Sever’s disease, hyper-pronation, Achilles tendonitis, and other concerns.
Treatment for Flat Feet
While it’s true that the U.S. military used to list flat feet as a disqualifying condition for enlistment, it’s not generally considered to be a major concern anymore. People with flat feet are able to join the military, compete as athletes, wear high heels, and do other “normal” things. Your child’s doctor might encourage being proactive to protect their feet and ankles by wearing certain shoes or using orthotics even before problems develop. If your child participates in sports, you should make sure they have proper, well-fitting footwear. Recommended treatment might include:
- Arch supports. An arch in the foot is important to support the ankles, knees, and back, so it is important that a child with flat feet have an appropriate arch in their shoes. A podiatrist can make a custom orthotic that fits the child’s foot perfectly and provides an ideal arch in all of their shoes.
- Supportive shoes. Children with flat feet should avoid flip-flops and other shoes with no arch support and should be discouraged from walking barefoot too often.
- Stretches. Stretching the Achilles tendon can help if the child has heel or ankle pain.
- Physical therapy. A pre-teen or teen with flat feet might need physical therapy to help with the overuse injuries they could develop if they become very active or participate in sports at a high level.
- Surgery. There is no surgical procedure to correct flat feet, but a child who has a related foot or leg problem—such as a torn tendon or fused bones—might need some kind of surgery.
A foot specialist who works with children can assess your child’s condition, come up with a treatment plan, and give you peace of mind.
Call Us If Your Child Has Painful Flat Feet
Our board-certified pediatric foot specialists are available in our state-of-the-art facilities throughout the greater Portland area to help relieve your child’s pain or discomfort. To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Extremity Specialists, call your nearest office today or drop us a line using our online contact form.