Flat feet is often termed as fallen arches meaning that feet doesn’t have arches or if they have it is really low that is almost remains completely flat with the ground. Arch is the middle part of your feet that in normal conditions is raised off from the ground as you stand in a normal position. Usually in newborns and young children, feet are flat and the arch isn’t really visible within those soft feet. But as these babies grow older, the arch becomes more visible. In some children, this arch may never develop and thus they are termed as flat feet.
What causes flat feet in children?
Many people believe that flat feet in children are inherited from their parents and yes it is absolutely true. Children may have inherited flat feet. Usually children within the age bracket of 1 to 5 years have flat feet and around 95% of these children develop normal arches as they grow. Thus only a small fraction of children have flat feet. This is a condition that develops naturally. Many people belief that this is an abnormality that must be treated. Though it is not true. In most of the cases, children face no pains or problems and they take part in all the activities involving feet as other children. However, quite rarely flat feet can be painful or extremely stiff that hinder normal activities. So such feet would need doctor’s examination, treatment, special care and attention.
Types of Flat Feet in Children:
A child may have three different kinds of flat feet and when you know which one relates to your child’s problem; you will be able to deal better with a specific treatment for that particular type.
- Flexible Flat Feet: All the young children usually have a flat feet that is flexible and hypermobile. Children face no pain or disability or hindrance with movement and thus no treatment is needed. Children always have both feet flat with flexibility.
- Flexible Flat Feet with Achilles tendon (short): This is a condition that is rare in young children and if happens it would affect both feet. This condition could be painful and can be termed as a kind of disability. A child suffering from this problem would have trouble with movement of his ankle too.
- Stiff Flat Feet: Very rarely found in children and the main cause behind a rigid flat feet is a problem with your feet bones. It causes pain and disability but only about in a 1/4thfraction of people suffering from rigid flat feet. Stiff flat feet can be in one foot or both feet.
Symptoms of Flat Feet in Children:
Many a times there will be no symptoms as such but you or a pediatric doctor would only notice flat feet with examination of feet. In rare conditions, children may have symptoms such as:
- Pain in feet
- Softness of feet
- Cramps in feet or legs
- Heels tilted outwards
- Walking in a way that doesn’t seem normal
- Trouble in walking and other physical activities.
Severe symptoms may be noticed if the child is suffering from stiff flat feet and thus would need medical attention and treatment.
Process of Diagnoses:
When you take your child to a surgical specialist, he will begin to diagnose the problem by examining your child’s feet. He would also ask your child to perform various physical activities such as sitting, standing, walking, jogging or others. While your child perform these activities, he will notice your child feet in each situation. While in some severe conditions, an X-ray may be needed to examine deformity. Apart from feet, hips, knees, ankle and other parts of your child’s legs would be examined too in order to find if there is any other related problem in their legs.
Treatment Options for Pediatric Flat Feet:
Flexible Flat Feet:
Non-surgical: In most of the cases where child is not suffering from any pain or discomfort, he/she would not need any treatment. This is in case of normal flexible flat feet that wouldn’t cause any pains or problems. No different treatment would be needed and your child would be wearing normal shoes and would perform all his regular physical activities without any trouble.
Some children may face general aching pains in feet after some physical activities. In that case, simple arch support insert or a running shoe with arch support can be used.
Flexible Flat Feet with Achilles tendon (short):
Non-surgical: In this case, treatment would include stretching of Achilles tendon. However if it is often difficult to stretch Achilles tendon with flat foot. You would need to rotate foot carefully in an inward position to stretch Achilles tendon and elevating the arch. If Achilles tendon is tight with flexible flat foot, you should avoid using stiff arch supports. Usually these rigid supports are made up of plastic and could give your child more trouble in the form of pains.
Other Non-Surgical Treatments:
Apart from some specific non-surgical treatments that we have shared for some specific conditions, here are some other measures that may prove helpful but before trying make sure you consult to a doctor for your child’s specific condition and use of these measures.
- At all times, your child must be wearing a supportive pair of shoes.
- Orthotics insoles can be helpful to give additional support for your child’s flat feet.
- Stretching and foot rolling exercises but make sure you limit their intensity and be very gentle with your child’s soft feet. Avoid over stressing.
Surgery is an option in rare cases and in cases where non-surgical measures are not helpful. In such cases pain and deformity is treatment with the aid of a required surgery. Although to perform surgery, a child must be at the age of 8 years. If the Achilles tendon are short with flexible foot; surgery would involve lengthening it and correcting the deformity. For abnormally developed bones, heel bone is extended with the insertion of a bone graft and this surgery is termed as calcaneal lengthening osteotomy. Surgeries would depend upon your specific feet condition and it may need lengthening, repairing, straightening or separately joints, tissues or bones. But surgery should not be considered an option if nothing else is working and your child is experiencing pain. Properly get evaluation done before approaching a decision for surgery. Take recommendations of different physicians if needed.
Flat feet typically grow in to a normal feet in children with age as they develop but some not so common conditions such as short Achilles tendon and rigid flat feet can be problematic and painful. It is best to get your child’s feet examined by a doctor and opt for non-surgical approaches first. If nothing works and there is severe pain or deformity, you may opt for a surgical option depending upon your child’s age and foot type.