Is my Child Normal? They have Flat Feet!
Working as a Podiatrist in private practice one of the most common questions that I am asked is "Is it normal for my child to have flat feet?"
The simple answer is YES it is normal for your child to have flat feet.
In this article I will explain why it is normal for your child to have flat feet and how as Podiatrists we can help prevent their feet from becoming painful in the future.
Why do Children have Flat Feet?
The majority of children aged 1-5 years old have flat feet.
Babies are born with flat feet because during infancy some of the fat padding in their feet is located around their inner arch area.
This is important because having flat feet increases the surface area of the foot in contact with the ground which creates more stability when they are learning to walk.
95% of children will develop an arch , meaning that 5% of children will continue to have flat feet with only a small percentage of that going on to have pain in adulthood.
There are two types of flat feet which are:
- Flexible: flat arch in standing but an arch develops when standing on tippy toes
- Rigid: flat arch in standing and when standing on tippy toes
How can a Podiatrist help?
Podiatrist are experts in foot and ankle development in children.
Your Podiatrist will perform an assessment on your child using an evidenced-based tool called the Paediatric Flat Foot Proforma (PFFP).
The PFFP is a tool to help diagnose and direct your Podiatrist what to do to help manage your child's flat feet based on the current evidence.
If your child has a flat foot but has no pain the best advice is to MONITOR them and provide them with exercises to help build calf and foot strength to protect the muscles which are more at risk of becoming overloaded with a flat foot.
If your child has a painful flat foot which is stopping them from doing what they love then intervention is required.
Management for Painful Flat Feet:
1. Pain Management Tips
Reducing your child’s pain is the first step to getting them back to doing what they love.
If your child is complaining of pain in their feet or ankles at the end of the day you can apply ice to the area for 15 minutes which will help reduce some their pain.
A reduction in training load may be necessary for the short term if your child is extremely active and playing many different sports.
You may need to speak with your child to find out what teams are most important to them and focus on playing for those teams for the short term.
Correct footwear is extremely important for children with flat feet.
Often I see children with foot pain but they are wearing unsupportive shoes that bend and twist like a tea towel.
Canvas/flat shoes are inappropriate for children with painful flat as they don't provide the amount of structure and support that their feet need.
Having appropriate shoes fitted correctly by a professional is sometimes enough to reduce most of your child's pain caused by flat feet.
3. Strength and Conditioning
A strength and conditioning program is important for children with a flexible flat foot.
Strength and conditioning is an awesome way to help reduce your child's pain and prevent the need for orthotics.
Exercises will be prescribed by your Podiatrist to target the intrinsic (small) muscles of their feet as well as the calf muscles.
If your child is in pain with supportive footwear and an appropriate strength and conditioning program then orthotics may be required.
Orthotics work by moving the load away from your child’s painful areas. You can read more about orthotics here
There are many different types and designs of orthotics.
Depending on your child's needs your Podiatrist will discuss with you what is best for your child.
Need more Information?
This article is a brief overview of flat feet in children.
If you need more information related specifically to your child your best option is to book an appointment to see your Podiatrist for your child to have an assessment and get the best advice on how they can help your child have a healthy and active life.
Podiatrist at Complete Podiatry