Flat feet in children

August 7, 2015
/ Editor1 /

Complete Rehabilitation

What are flat feet?
Feet have a natural arch which runs along the inside border of the foot, lifting the inner edge of the foot clear from the floor. When your child stands up, if the inside arch can’t be seen and instead the foot runs flat on the ground, this is known as flat feet. It’s worth being aware that before the age of 3 all children have flat feet, it takes time for the arch to develop and strengthen after this age. If older children haven’t developed an obvious arch, it doesn’t always have to cause them problems but we’ll talk about that below. There’s a few other names that are used to describe flat feet, which can be confusing, but ultimately they all have the same meaning, they are: Pes planus , Pes valgus , Pronated feet and Fallen arches.

Why do you get flat feet?
Very rarely, flat feet be associated with structural bony problems.Very young children naturally appear flat footed due to the amount of  baby fat that tends to be present on the underside of the foot. There are lots of different bones in the foot that are all connected to each other by strong ligaments. If these ligaments are more stretchy
in cases such as hyper-mobility the arch can find it difficult to  support the foot until they become stronger as the child develops. Flat feet can also be apparent when a child has muscle tightness, in particular, the calf muscles.

Will my child need treatment?
If there’s no problems like pain, linked to your child having flat feet then they will probably not require treatment. Should your child complain of foot or knee pain , or if they find it difficult to balance or problems walking longer distances then it’s worth speaking to a paediatric physiotherapist either by seeing your GP for a NHS referral or come direct to our paediatric physiotherapist (Sarah Doyle) here at Synergy physiotherapy. Your child can then be assessed under expert eyes and appropriate treatment given.

What’s the Treatment?
Treatment varies depending on the cause. Common treatments focus on exercises and/or stretches for your child to do. Occasionally your physiotherapist might feel it important to refer your child to a podiatrist or orthotist who can provide arch supports to put in your child’s shoes. Although these will give some support to the arches they will not change the shape of the foot and so aren’t a ‘cure’ on their own.

Will anything make it worse?
Flat feet don’t worsen with activities. So as long as there’s no pain associated with them you don’t need to limit your child from walking barefoot, running, or jumping. Your physiotherapist will also be able to advise you on appropriate footwear for your child.