My Child Has Flat Feet. Now What?

Many parents become very concerned if they notice and believe that their child’s feet are too flat. What causes the feet to be flat? Will having flatfeet put the child at risk of having foot pain or walking problems? When and how should the child be treated?

Pronation is a major contributor to flatfeet. Pronation is when the feet are rolled inward with the heels pointing away from the body, which will make the arches appear collapsed.  However, this can be normal depending on the age of the child. For instance, Flexible Flatfoot affects almost all children who are beginning to walk until 3 years of age. Flexible Flatfoot means that the child only seems to have flatfeet when standing, but when their foot is off the ground it is no longer flat. Around the age of 3 years old, parents will usually notice that the foot starts to show a more defined arch. The arch becomes more defined due to the development of the foot’s structural anatomy, such as, the foot bones hardening and ligaments tightening. No treatment is needed for Flexible Flatfoot unless it is extremely severe.

Unfortunately, children with flatfeet are not always a simple problem to fix. There are many different complex causes, besides pronation, for flatfeet; additionally, some flatfoot deformities are acquired with time or the child is born with flatfeet. Some of the other types of flatfoot deformities that may need treatment are called:

  • Severe Flexible Flatfoot
  • Rigid Flatfoot
  • Talipes Calcaneovalgus
  • Skewfoot Deformity
  • Oblique Talus Deformity
  • Congenital Convex Pes Valgus

Unlike Flexible Flatfoot, these flatfoot deformities usually do not correct with time. It is also important to note, that flatfeet may also be the result of other health problems, such as collagen diseases, neuromuscular diseases, or problems during development.

It is very difficult to distinguish between the various deformities, but experts in pediatric podiatry will usually not have a problem diagnosing the specific deformity and what is causing the flatfeet. To generalize the causes of these various types of flatfeet, the problem is related to joints in the foot that are dysfunctional, which will lead to a pronated mal-positioned foot, which results in the flattening of the arches.

So, how do you know when treatment is needed or what type of treatment? Well, the child will come in for an evaluation to pinpoint the specific flatfoot deformity. Based on the diagnosis, no treatment is needed or various treatments will be discussed.

Treating children for flatfeet is controversial because their flatfeet may not cause any problem or may spontaneously correct in the future; however, if not carefully assessed the treatment could be problematic as the child matures. This is why it is necessary to address each child’s case of flatfeet individually, and why there is no standardized treatment for flatfeet. To determine if treatment is needed, the child’s pain level, walk, and possible x-rays will be assessed during the appointment. If the assessment has a negative outlook some of the treatments are:

  • Supportive shoes
  • Arch supports
  • Stretches for the foot and leg
  • Custom-made orthoses
  • Surgery

In addition to these possible treatments, close monitoring of the child will also be needed both by parents and doctor. The Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic takes a special interest in pediatric foot problems and will be able to help children who have and may suffer from flatfeet.

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