Children's Flat Feet (Pediatric Flat Feet)
Pediatric Flat Feet Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms
What Is Pediatric Flat Feet?
Pediatric flat feet is a condition in which the entire sole of the child’s foot contacts the ground. Also known as pes planus and fallen arches, flat feet occurs when the foot’s arch either fails to develop or collapses.
Flat feet in children is fairly common due to the fact that their bones and joints are still extremely flexible. Most children outgrow the condition by age six. Even those who don’t outgrow the condition (around 15 percent) rarely require treatment.
If you think your child has flat feet, talk to his or her doctor. Do not attempt to treat the condition without the advice of a pediatric podiatrist.
Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Causes of Pediatric Flat Feet
When the child’s arch fails to develop, pediatric flat feet may result. In the majority of cases, the condition requires no treatment. However, this is not always true. Much depends on what caused your child’s flat feet. If your child has either a tight Achilles tendon or a rigid foot, he or she will require treatment.
Common Symptoms of Pediatric Flat Feet
Most of the time, a child with flat feet experiences no symptoms beyond the actual appearance of the foot. In this case, the condition is considered asymptomatic. Most people recognize the appearance of flat feet. Namely, the foot lies flat on the ground, with little to no arch visible. When standing behind the child, you likely can see the outer toes but not the big toe.
Children with symptomatic flat feet may display one or more of the following symptoms:
- An outward tilt at the heel
- Changes to gait or awkwardness when walking
- Difficulty moving the foot from side to side or up and down
- Feeling pain or tenderness anywhere from the foot to the knee
- Pain or difficulty when wearing shoes
- Withdrawing from physical activities
If your child experiences any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a pediatric podiatrist.
Diagnosing Pediatric Flat Feet
To diagnose pediatric flat feet, the podiatrist examines your child’s foot, looking for differences in its appearance when your child stands versus when he or she sits. In addition, the doctor tests the child’s range of motion and watches him or her walk. To determine the underlying cause, your podiatrist may also examine the lower leg and possibly up to the hip.
Finally, the doctor may order x-rays or other diagnostic images to determine the severity of your child’s condition.
Pediatric Flat Feet Treatment Options
If your child’s condition is symptomatic and requires treatment, there are various nonsurgical options available.
- Medication: If your child experiences pain and/or inflammation, over-the-counter medications may be prescribed to manage discomfort.
- Modify activity levels: There may need to be a temporary decrease in activities that cause your child foot pain. Your child may also need to avoid prolonged periods of standing or walking.
- Orthotics: A custom orthotic fitted inside your child’s shoe helps support structure and improve function.
- Physical therapy: Your pediatric podiatrist may supervise special stretching exercises, particularly when issues with the Achilles tendon cause the condition.
- Proper footwear: The doctor should advise you on proper footwear for a child with flat feet.
Is surgery ever required?
Although most cases of pediatric flat feet require no treatment, some are some that are severe enough to require surgery. Much depends on the child’s degree of deformity and the underlying cause of his or her condition.
The Importance of Seeing a Pediatric Podiatrist
Since flat feet is so common, and the condition is fairly obvious, parents may choose to diagnose and treat their child. Unfortunately, this often results in the parent doing more harm than good. This is particularly true with over-the-counter shoe inserts. We cannot stress enough that you should never buy these. Not only will they NOT help your child develop an arch, improperly used shoe inserts may cause additional problems.
A pediatric podiatrist has the training and expertise needed to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of your child’s foot issue.