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Flat Feet in Children May Affect Gait, Posture, Health.
Flat feet are normal in infants and toddlers since the arch of the foot has not yet developed. The arch in the foot develops during the first 5 to 10 years of life, needing evaluation and treatment if foot pain or swelling occurs which becomes worse with activity. While having flat feet may not cause pain or require treatment, orthopedic problems associated with flat feet may impact the alignment of ankles, knees, hips, and spine.
Flat Feet Causes Vary
The foot of a child growing into adolescence and adulthood is a complicated structure where bones, ligaments, muscles and nerves all interact in the developing foot. Anything that impacts on the foundation and integrity of these intertwined structures can lead to a collapsed arch which results in symptomatic flat feet. Flat feet may also be caused from unusual foot anatomy where bones may be joined together, there is ligament or muscle damage, a medical condition, or where there is a structural alignment issue with the knees or legs.
The Pain of Flat Feet
The most common symptom of flat feet is pain, however having flat feet does not mean that pain is expected or will occur. If pain is reported, it can be present in the inner ankle, the arch of foot, in the calf, knee, hip, back, lower leg, heel area, sole of foot, or encompass the entire foot. While having flat feet can be painless, when there is pain it is typically present during weight bearing activities such as walking, running, or jumping. The presence of pain which alters posture and gait needs to be evaluated by a doctor specializing in pediatric orthopedics.
Symptoms of Flat Feet
Flat feet may not become a problem until the child begins to complain of pain or stiffness of their feet. Other symptoms of possible concerns with flat feet include one or more of the following:
- Pain, tenderness, or cramping of the foot, leg, or knee
- Pain around the arch or heel of the foot (one or both feet)
- Awkwardness of gait
- Difficulty with shoes where they wear unevenly
- Trouble standing on tip-toes
- Swelling around the inside of the ankles
- The heel of foot appears to tilt outward
- Stiffness to one or both feet
- Avoidance of physical activities (related to pain or gait problems)
- Limited side-to-side foot motion, or limited up-and-down ankle motion
- Presence of sores or pressure areas on inner side of foot
Treatment for Flat Feet
Depending on the reason or cause of flat feet, the treatment will vary. An evaluation by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon may reveal the need for non-surgical approaches which include special stretching exercises, or corrective treatment that may involve orthotics, custom shoes, physical therapy, activity modifications, or medications. Orthotics and over-the-counter shoe inserts will never result in the development of a longitudinal arch and should be used only with professional recommendation.
Flat Feet Pediatric Orthopedic Evaluation
If your growing child or teenager is experiencing continuing foot pain which is affecting their posture, gait, or ability to participate in sports and other recreational activities, it may be time to have a comprehensive evaluation of their foot anatomy and structure. Call the office of Pediatric Orthopaedic Associates for the treatment that can help your child achieve “happy feet.”