Pediatric flat foot, also known as fallen arches, is a condition where the entire sole of the child’s foot contacts the ground. The sole of the foot has an arch on the inner side that extends from the heel to the base of the big toe. The foot is called flat when it does not have this arch.
It’s a normal condition that almost all babies and young children have. In infants, the baby fat pad in the foot hides the developing arch. Young children have flat feet because they are loose jointed. Most children show the sole arch around the age of six except for one or two in 10 children who might never develop an arch. However, this doesn’t mean that they will have problems with physical activities, sports, or feel any pain.
A study was conducted to investigate the prevalence of flat foot in school children where 835 kids were scanned. The age range was between three to six years old. The results showed that 44% of the kids have flexible flat foot. The study also concluded that flat foot is affected by factors as age, gender, and weight.
- In the three-year-old children group, 54% showed flat foot, while the percentage in the six-year-old group was 24%.
- The prevalence of flat foot was 52% in boys and 36% in girls which shows that boys have a higher tendency for flat foot.
- 13% of the kids with flat foot were overweight or obese.
How to spot flat foot?
- Let your child stand barefoot, facing away from you.
- If you can see the pinky toe and big toe, his feet are normal.
- If you can see the pinky toe, ring toe, but not the big toe, then he has flat feet.
Causes of flat foot
In most cases, there are no obvious causes for flat feet. They are usually inherited from parents. In some rare cases, they might be caused by:
- Stretching of the tissues in the feet due to a foot or ankle injury or gaining excess weight.
- Conditions affecting the muscles, nerves, and joints.
- The bones of the feet didn’t grow properly in the womb.
Treatment of flat foot
In most cases, flat feet don’t require treatment and is asymptomatic. However after the age of five, there are some signs that you should consult a specialized doctor to advise you with the needed treatment:
- Foot pain, specifically in the heel or arch area
- Sores or pressure areas on the inner side of the foot
- An outward tilt at the heel
- Pain when wearing shoes
- Stiff foot
- Ankle swelling
- Limited side-to-side foot motion or limited up-and-down ankle motion
- Limitation of physical activity or pain during the activity
- One foot is only affected
There is a lot of controversy regarding the urgency and effectiveness of surgery in some flat feet cases. However, there are some non-surgical treatments that can be applied. They won’t change the shape of the feet but will help get rid of the painful or limiting symptoms:
- Wide comfortable shoes with low heel instead of sandals and flip flops
- Stretching workouts for the Achilles tendon
- Physical therapy
- Limiting high-impact activities like jumping, running, and long standing or walking time
- Weight loss to relieve the stress on the feet
- Pain relievers to soothe the pain and the inflammation
Further reading: How to Spot Series: Puberty in Girls and Boys