Flat feet are also referred to as a fallen or collapsed arch. Flat feet are what we call a foot whose entire arch comes in contact with the ground.Pediatric flat feet are when this is seen in children. The collapse of the arch can either be partial or total, and will not always come with a noticeable set of symptoms. Childrens’ joints and bones are much more flexible than those of adults and because of this pediatric flat feet can be seen frequently in children under 6. This flexibility of the joints is also why children tend to suffer less from the side effects of this condition than adults do.
The foot actually contains three main arches, the medial and lateral longitudinal arches run front to back down the sides of the foot. The anterior transverse arch runs along the width of the foot just behind the base of the toes. These arches help with stability, weight bearing, shock absorption, and even act as a sort of spring to help propel us forward when we walk, jump or run. Needless to say if a child’s arches collapse and their feet flatten this could impose a great deal of stress on the joints of the lower body later in life, as well as limit some of their functional and athletic potential as they begin to explore their physicality.
Symptoms of Flat Feet
While the young and flexible bodies of children might be less likely to experience uncomfortable side effects from this condition, it is not impossible and it is not guaranteed that that things will remain painless just because they don’t notice any symptoms now. Some symptoms to look out for as a result of pediatric flat feet are:
- Pain or cramping in the foot
- Pain in the knees or ankles
- Clumsiness/awkwardness when running or walking
- A toes out or “duck footed stance
- Difficulty with, or a lack of interest in sports and physical activity
- Lack of foot mobility
- Pain or discomfort with footwear
Diagnosing Flat Feet
Diagnosing pediatric flat foot is a quick and painless process. Most doctors will be able to tell if your child is suffering from pediatric flat foot just by looking at their feet and watching them stand or walk. Occasionally they will perform a minor physical exam to determine how much mobility has been lost and how much discomfort is being experienced. None of this should harm or distress your child in any way. After the exam the doctor will discuss how severe your child’s flat feet are, as well as offer certain treatment options that could help restore the natural shape of their feet.
Treatment for Flat Feet
More often than not treatment for a condition like pediatric flat foot is non-invasive, meaning it requires no surgery or anesthesia to treat. There are a variety of treatment options that will be discussed, and the one that your doctor recommends will depend on the nature and severity of your child’s case. Some of the non-invasive treatment options that may be discussed are:
- Orthotics or inserts for your child’s shoes
- Physical therapy consisting of exercised, stretches, and gait/posture adjustments
- Change in footwear
- Antiinflammatories like ibuprofen to help with pain and swelling
Your doctor will likely have you work with these options for a scheduled amount of time before considering more extreme options like surgery. While surgery is unlikely to be necessary, it is occasionally required. The specifics of the procedure that will be chosen for your child will depend on how severe their flat feet are, how long they have been an issue, and what exactly is causing the problem. Your doctor will be able to explain all of this and more in greater detail if they do come to the conclusion that surgery is necessary.
If you believe that your child is struggling with pediatric flat feet or you would like to learn more about how to prevent such a condition, please feel free to contact us.