Many parents, especially new ones, are concerned when they realize their child’s feet are flat and do not have the expected foot arches. The good news about this situation is that worry is often unnecessary. Whereas there are certainly cases of pediatric flatfoot that require treatment, there are even more that do not.

No matter if you simply would like a medical opinion or your child is experiencing symptoms and needs professional care, our team at Fixing Feet Institute is here to help.

We can evaluate your child’s foot arches and lower limbs to determine whether or not there is a problem. If medical care is needed, we will create a treatment plan so your son or daughter can participate in favorite activities, without foot pain!

What is normal child foot development?

The best starting point for looking at pediatric flatfoot is with child foot development.

When a child is born you most likely will not be able to observe foot arches. Whereas it might seem concerning that your baby has flat feet, this is quite normal. Initially, the young arches are obscured by pads of fat on the bottom of the feet. It might be until the age of 3 before you start to see foot arches.

Of course, even if your child passes 3 years of age without pronounced foot arches, there still isn’t much reason to worry. The arches start to really develop around this time and continue to do so until a child’s eighth birthday, give or take.

We’ll delve into this a bit further in a moment, but it’s worth noting here that a nine-year-old who has flatfoot still might not be cause for concern. The reason for this is the distinction between cases of flexible and rigid flatfoot.

What is the difference between flexible and rigid flatfoot?

To start, a key distinction between flexible and rigid flatfoot conditions is that flexible flatfoot is less likely to cause problems than are rigid cases. Fortunately, flexible flatfoot tends to be more common between the two varieties.

Your son or daughter has flexible flatfoot if foot arches can be observed when there is no weight being placed on the feet (for example, when your child is sitting and his or her legs are dangling).

Rigid flatfoot is a condition wherein there are complications with tarsal bones in the feet. As a result of these complications, it doesn’t matter whether or not weight is being placed on the foot—an arch will not be observed. These cases are more likely to cause pain and need professional treatment and care.

How is pediatric flatfoot treated?

It is important to keep in mind that when no symptoms are experienced, there is no need for treatment. In such cases, we will simply want to monitor the condition and re-evaluate it periodically.

When symptoms are present, however, there are various nonsurgical treatment methods that can be used, including:

  • Modifying activities. Decreasing activities that cause pain, or switching them out for ones are low-impact, can help provide relief. In some cases, standing or walking for prolonged periods can cause difficulty and those should be limited as well.
  • Prescribing orthotic devices. Our Surprise, AZ office can prepare custom orthotic devices that slide into your son or daughter’s shoes. This will support the structure of your child’s feet and lead to improved foot function.
  • Physical therapy. In many young patients, prescribed stretching exercises will provide relief for flatfoot conditions.
  • Shoe modifications. Certain shoes work better for individuals with low arches and we can help you find ones that might be best for your child.
  • Medication. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications will often reduce inflammation and pain. Our team can provide recommended dosage amounts, so be sure to call before giving any of these medications to your son or daughter.

What other child foot concerns should I be aware of?

Flatfoot isn’t the only problem—perceived or otherwise—parents worry about for their children. Others include:

Intoeing. Also known as “pigeon-toed,” this condition is when feet point inwards (instead of straight ahead). There are three common causes for this—metatarsus adductus, tibial torsion, and femoral anteversion.In the case of metatarsus adductus, the foot itself is unusually curved. For tibial torsion, the shinbone (tibia) is twisted inward in an abnormal fashion. Femoral anteversion is similar, but this time it’s the thighbone (femur) with an unusual twisting.The good news about intoeing is that most conditions will correct themselves over time as the body continues its physical development. That said, it’s not a bad idea to bring your child in for a professional examination and diagnosis. When you do, we can determine if there are any corrective measures we need to use.

Out-toeing. As you might expect, this is the opposite of intoeing (with feet pointing out, instead of in). Between the two, out-toeing is a bit more concerning—although these conditions might correct themselves over time as well.

Ingrown toenails. Technically, this is a problem that can affect humans at virtually any age. Since many adults think it’s more of a “grown-up problem,” they might not be aware that children can—and do!—have nails that become ingrown as well.It’s important that you catch this problem early. In part this is because the condition can cause pain and discomfort for your child. More than that, however, an ingrown toenail can potentially become infected (since it creates an opening into the body for microorganisms).If you happen to realize that your son or daughter has a toenail that’s become ingrown, make an appointment with our appointment and we can provide gentle, yet effective care.

Where can I find podiatric treatment for my son or daughter?

No matter what foot condition or injury is affecting your child, our team at Fixing Feet Institute is here to help. We work hard to provide the effective treatment to allow your son or daughter to perform favorite activities and find relief from any pain or discomfort.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding pediatric flatfoot—or you need to request an appointment with us for your child—simply give our Surprise, AZ office a call at (623) 584-5556.

Our team looks forward to having the opportunity to serving you and your family!

Dr. Peyman A. Elison
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Founder and Managing Partner of Fixing Feet Institute
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