Children’s Flat Feet

What Are Flat Feet?

Flat feet, also known as “fallen arches” or “pes planus”, occur in approximately 20-30 percent of the population. It can affect both children and adults. This is a common problem that may lead to other issues later on in life when left untreated.

What Causes Flat Feet In Children?

All infants’ feet appear flat as the arch has yet to form due to low muscle tone and weak ligaments. There is also a fat deposit which can hide the natural curve of the arch area. This fat pad usually disappears when the child is about 2 years old.

Most children’s arches will develop through their childhood. However, some will never develop arches. This can be a variation in foot type from an inherited trait in a family.

Flat feet can also be a result of medical conditions affecting the muscles and nerves, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or spina bifida.

What Are The Types Of Flat Feet?

  1. A flexible pes planus or flexible flat foot is when your arch is flattened when standing and returns when the foot is lifted off the ground. This is common amongst young children. It is usually painless and does not interfere with walking or sporting activities. Most children eventually outgrow it without any problems though some may never develop an arch.
  1. A rigid flat foot does not form an arch when sitting or standing. This is usually the result of how the bones are shaped or formed in the foot. Unlike, flexible flat feet, this is usually more severe, and often causes pain and will require treatment. Rarely, a child will have rigid flat feet. However, if they do have a rigid flat foot, difficulty moving the foot up and down or side to side at the ankle will be experienced. Common causes of rigid flat feet includes:
  • Tarsal Coalition (An inherited condition causing the fusion of bones that are not meant to be connected)
  • Congenital vertical Talus (A rare congenital disorder resulting in the misalignment of foot bones)

 

What Are The Possible Signs And Symptoms Associated With Flat Feet?

  • Pain, not a general achy feeling and often specific to a spot in the foot
  • Heel tilted away from midline
  • Absence of foot arch when standing and walking
  • Change in walking
  • Rolling in at ankles and feet
  • Difficulty going into a tip toe position
  • Knock knees
  • In-toeing
  • Frequent tripping

How Can Podiatry Help?

A podiatrist is trained in assessing a child’s lower limb development. Children as early as 12 months old may visit a podiatrist. It is never too early to see a podiatrist as the earlier we identify issues and start treatment, the better the results. If we intend to wait it out and monitor before treatment, we will be able to track the progression and changes in your child’s feet.

Nothing makes us happier than seeing happy, healthy and active children running around our practice!

While some children have flat feet and have no problems at any stage in life, many do suffer from ailments such as arthritis and muscle problems, which can start as early as their teenage years. This can seriously affect their quality of life.

It is highly recommend that you consult a podiatrist if you spot any of these signs:

  • Intoeing or out toeing
  • Pain when walking/ tired or sore legs
  • Flat feet beyond the age of five years old
  • Bunions or other deformities
  • Limping
  • Changes in the way your child walks/ exhibits disordered walking or standing behaviours (bowed legs, knocked knees, flat feet, toe walking or tiptoeing)
  • If your child is not walking by two years of age

Even if your child does not have any of these symptoms, taking him or her to a podiatrist for a quick assessment may be useful in identifying problems you may not even notice. Addressing these can decrease any pain, discomfort and mobility changes your child may eventually experience. Leaving them unresolved could lead to a progressive problem.

What Can I Expect When Seeing The Podiatrist?

The podiatrist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your child’s legs and feet to identify the cause or reason to the problem.

Dynamic and static assessments will include:

  • Hip examination
  • Knee examination
  • Ankle and foot examination
  • Standing and gait analysis
  • Footwear analysis and advice

From the findings, the podiatrist will be able to construct a treatment plan for your child. Treatment may include the application of foot orthoses, footwear changes, or stretching and strengthening exercises. In more severe cases where specialist care is required, your podiatrist will make the appropriate arrangements.