What to Do If Your Child Has Flat Feet. (It Doesn’t Involve Panicking.)
Whether you are aware of it or not, you spend a lot of time watching your child move. From those exciting first steps, to chasing after a toddler heading for trouble, to cheering a middle schooler up and down the field, you have plenty of mental footage to work with.
And when reviewing that footage, there’s a chance you might be concerned with what you see. One big concern that many parents tend to see involves how flat their child’s feet may be against the ground.
What Am I Seeing Here?
Everyone knows the general shape of a human foot: five toes on one end, a heel on the other, and an arch in the middle.
Under standard conditions, the arch generally maintains its shape while the foot is in motion. The bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues within it flex and properly distribute weight across the foot for good, efficient standing and movement.
So when you don’t see that arch, just what is going on?
A very important fact to know from the start is that children are very rarely born with any semblance of arches. Those chubby little feet frankly don’t need them yet, since they won’t be bearing any weight for a while.
As a child grows and develops, however, the arches should begin to take shape in response to the need for them. During this time, you might see a condition known as “pediatric flatfoot.”
What is Pediatric Flatfoot?
Pediatric flatfoot is also sometimes referred to as “flexible flatfoot,” and it looks like what you might expect from the name: flat feet that… aren’t always flat.
You might see your child’s arches while they are sitting down or generally not on their feet. As soon as they stand, however, those arches disappear like a strange magic trick! When they sit down or rise up onto their tiptoes, those arches tend to return!
It may seem like a strange anomaly, but this is a relatively common occurrence in younger children whose arches are still developing. Not all children will show this condition, but most who do will not experience any negative consequences from it. Most will grow out of it and have normal, healthy, permanent arches once their bodies and motor skills have developed sufficiently.
But what if those arches still don’t appear?
When Should You Do Something About Flat Feet?
Most children will see their flat feet disappear by the time they become six years old. However, for about 10-20 percent of children, this will not be the case. Their arches may never fully develop and, as maturity makes developed tissues more rigid, there is no chance that their arches ever will shape up properly on their own.
What does that mean for you as a parent? It certainly doesn’t mean you have to panic about flat feet! We have good news on this subject—but also some cautious recommendations.
First, seeing flat feet in your child before the age of six years usually means they will not need any direct treatment.
Second, even if your child develops flat feet that continue into adulthood, nothing usually needs to be done about it if it is not causing any pain or interfering with their life in any way. Many people go through life with flat feet that don’t cause them any problems.
Now, here’s our important cautionary advice:
Just because odds are in your favor that your child’s flat feet will not be an issue does not mean they should not be monitored. While most cases of flat feet are relatively benign, sometimes there is a much more serious underlying foot problem that does need to be identified and treated early.
By keeping an eye on your child’s foot development, including occasional check-ups at our office, we can help ensure that development is on the right track and there are no underlying issues or causes for concern.
And if it does turn out that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, we will be able to identify it and take action on it during its earliest stages, often while your child’s foot structure is still somewhat flexible. This means a much higher potential to save your child from excess pain or problems as they head into adulthood.
Treatments for flat feet may involve physical therapy (in the form of stretches and strengthening exercises), changes in footwear, or the use of custom orthotics to provide specific support and cushioning where needed, among other potential treatments.
If you are concerned that surgery may be a necessity, please don’t be. The need for surgery is very, very rarely a consideration. Most cases of problematic flat feet can be successfully addressed via conservative measures alone. Yet, in the very rare chance that conservative treatments don’t work and surgery might be on the table, we will be certain to fully discuss all options with you so you can make the best, most informed choices moving forward for your child.
Continuous Care for Growing Feet and Ankles
The time when your children’s feet are at their most flexible and developing is not one you should have to obsess over—but it’s not one you should completely ignore, either.
At Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper, we are dedicated to seeing young feet become the best they can be with as few obstacles as possible. We also wish to give parents as much peace of mind as possible, too. We understand where you’re coming from!
Schedule an appointment at our Jasper office by calling (812) 481-7200. If you would rather contact us electronically with questions or appointment requests, our lines are open! Simply fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will get back to you.