What is pediatric flat feet?
An easy way to determine if your child has flat feet or “fallen arches” is to have them stand. If the arch collapses and disappears but reappears if they stand on their tip toes, then they have what is called a “flexible flat foot.”
In rare instances, the child maintains a collapsed arch regardless of sitting or standing. This is known as a “rigid flat foot” and often times prove to be more problematic than its flexible counterpart.
Who gets it the most?
A lot of children are born with flat feet. Like eye and hair color, children inherit their foot type from their parents. As an infant, the bones in the feet are made of cartilage which are slowly replaced with bone around the ages of 2 and 3. Most children will grow out of their flat feet at they continue to develop around the age of five but the condition may persist into adulthood.
What are the symptoms?
Most children with flat feet do not experience any symptoms. For the unfortunate handful who do, here are the most common complaints.
- Tired, achey feet during activity
- Sharp pain along the arch
- Unable to walk long distances
- Fatique and unable to keep up with their peers.
In our experience, kids don’t always tell their parents outright that they are in pain. If you notice that your child has withdrawn from physical activity or has a persistent limp, then it is time to see a podiatrist.
How do we test/diagnose?
A trained foot and ankle specialist such as a podiatrist can easily diagnose flat feet with a thorough exam that may include watching the way they walk and analyzing the pattern of wear on their shoes. An additional x-ray is used to confirm the diagnosis which shows the alignment of bones.
How do we treat? How do we prevent?
Not all children develop painful flat feet. For those who do, it is important to address the issue with supportive shoe gear and custom orthotics. Although they do not completely reverse the problem, they may slow down the progression and prevent the flat feet from getting worse. Physical therapy is often employed to stretch and strengthen muscles to help maintain the arch. In extreme cases, surgery is performed to recreate the arch but this is usually not done until adulthood. The number one treatment is prevention.