Flat Feet in Children

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Question:  I am concerned that my child has flat feet. Does he/she need surgery or corrective shoes?

Answer:

A flat foot is one of the most common pediatric conditions we see in our practice. Some basic background knowledge on flat feet can be very helpful to parents.

At birth, infants normally have flat feet and continue to have the appearance of flat feet as toddlers. This is due to the fat pads on the soles of their feet. Normally, the feet are painless and flexible. Most children develop a visible arch by the age of 10 years or so. It is estimated that just over 10% of children will not develop an arch and will have flat feet as adults.

Most children and adolescents with flat feet do not have complaints. However, some with flexible flat feet may complain of achiness in the feet after activities and may develop calluses or abnormal shoe wear. Others have pain in the arch area from increased stretch on the ligaments and tendons in this area. Rarely, patients may lack flexibility in their feet.

Most patients with flexible flat feet don’t require any treatment. However, in symptomatic patients, treatment usually begins with supportive shoes, standard or custom shoe inserts (orthotics), and stretching or physical therapy. Rarely, corrective surgery is needed for patients that don’t improve with conservative measures or sometimes in those with rigid flat feet. This usually consists of cutting bones, realigning the foot, and tightening supporting structures.

If you have any concerns about your child’s feet, please see your physician for evaluation to develop a treatment plan for your child. Often the opinion of an orthopedic surgeon may be sought.

*This information is not intended as substitute for the medical recommendations of your medical provider.  Please consult your physician regarding advice about a particular medical condition as several conditions may have similar presentations.