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Flat Feet in Kids: To Treat or Not to Treat

Flat Feet in Kids: To Treat or Not to Treat

A common podiatry problem in kids is a condition referred to as flatfoot. It is when the foot lies flat on the ground, with no visible arch on the inner foot. Doctors look for signs or symptoms of flatfoot during well-visits because it can prevent children from a normal physical function. Not all children with flatfoot need to be treated though. As a parent, what can you look for and when should you treat it?

Different Types of Flatfoot

There are two main types of flatfoot. The first is referred to as flexible flatfoot and is obvious when the feet are in a hanging position. If your child has bare feet that lay flat on the ground when standing, try having them sit on a high seat and let their feet hang down naturally. Can you see an arch on the foot? If the answer is yes, your child has flexible flatfoot. Another test is to have your child stand on their tiptoes and see if you can see an arch in that position. This is another sign of flexible flatfoot but isn’t always an obvious way to see an arch.

The other type of flatfoot is called rigid flatfoot. If you cannot see an arch when your child stands on their tiptoes or hangs their feet naturally, they most likely have this form of flatfoot.

When to Treat Flatfoot

As a parent, if you ever feel concerned about your child’s feet, it is important to have a doctor look at them. A doctor will examine the foot and ankle areas, have your child stand flat on the ground, and do the dangling feet and tiptoe tests. This helps the doctor get a better idea on the condition of the feet and if they need treatment.

Rigid ankles can indicate a problem with the Achilles tendon. It might be too short or just too tight. Flexible flatfoot can be tricky to spot because of a short tendon here, but examination will show that. Other tests might be done to make sure the joints in the feet and ankles are in good condition, such as radiographs or x-rays.

The best test to decide if treatment is required is if there is any pain in the feet. While flatfoot can cause disability in some children, most often it is just painful. The pain is often isolated to one specific spot and is not a general pain in the arch area. Children may not mention the pain that they are experiencing because they don’t know how to verbalize it or don’t realize it is wrong or different. Some signs that your child is experiencing pain without you knowing is if they ask to be carried all the time, struggle to be active, or are much slower than other kids their age in activities that require walking or running.

If the doctor decides that your child has regular flexible flatfoot and there is no pain associated with it, there will most likely be no recommended treatment. They can wear regular shoes and be allowed to participate in normal activities.

If your child has rigid flatfoot, the doctor will run the extra tests to determine the reason why and the type of treatment to use. There are so many options available, including shoe inserts you can buy off-the-shelf. Custom orthoses can also be created for your child’s feet to help correct their form. If the flatfoot is caused by problems with the tendons and joints, surgery or physical therapy methods may be the best route for treatment.

Life After Treatment

Children who experience pain with flatfoot will see a dramatic difference after treatment. With supported feet or corrections, their activity levels will often increase because there is no pain holding them back. As a parent, it is always positive to see your child experience less pain and enjoy life more.

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