The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Flat Feet in Kids: Four Signs That It’s Time to See a Podiatrist

Posted by on Monday, November 12th, 2012

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When you have kids, you’re always on watch to see if there’s something wrong. Any deviation from the norm can make you suspicious that there’s some kind of issue that you need to catch now or risk ruining his or her life forever. “Is he hearing okay? Should she be reading now? Is his speech development on track?”

You may also worry about whether your child has flat feet (I know, like you need another worry).

Flat feet are simply feet without arches. The arch of the foot helps make it stronger, just as arches in architecture are used to support heavy structures. People with flat feet often over pronate, or roll their feet inwards too much, which can make them vulnerable to a number of injuries and foot conditions. It also can make their feet and legs tire more easily.

People typically develop flat feet as an adult, but children also can have them. Between 3 and 13% of children have flat feet that may require some kind of treatment. That’s not a huge number, but it’s not an incredibly uncommon condition. So how do you know when it’s time to worry? Here are some questions you should ask yourself before hitting the flat foot panic button:

How old is my child? Children are born without arches in their feet; the arches begin to develop around age two or three and most children have fully formed arches by age six. If you don’t see arches by then, you should begin to have some questions. At any age, you should investigate if you notice your child walking awkwardly or complaining about pain.

You can also help your children’s arches develop by only making then wear shoes when necessary, that is on cold, rough or dangerous surfaces, or because you’re going someplace where shoes are required. Otherwise, let them play around the house barefoot or in socks so their foot muscles can get stronger.

Do their feet always look flat? Many children have what is called “flexible flatfoot.” This means there is an arch in the foot when the child’s foot is relaxed, but it flattens out when he or she puts weight on it. If a child with flexible flat feet doesn’t seem to be complaining about pain or standing awkwardly, then you don’t have to rush off for a foot check, but just keep an eye on how the foot develops. If the child does seem to be in pain, then get him or her checked out.

Does your child shy away from activities that involve running or walking? Now don’t go overboard here–not every kid is interested in being an athlete. Some kids, even at an early age, are happy playing with their dolls or games, or maybe they prefer to draw, or play with a pet dog or cat. What you should look out for, though, is a child who appears to want to do an activity, but seems to be holding him or herself back. Kids are pretty easy to read–you can tell the difference between disinterest and reluctance mixed with wistfulness.

Does your child complain about tired legs? A child who has problematically flat feet may not say, “My feet hurt,” but rather may say, “My legs are tired.” When your feet are flat, the muscles in your legs have to work a lot harder and therefore will make your legs tired. It may be easier for a child to describe their legs as tired than pinpoint the foot problem that’s actually causing the achy, sore legs.

If you notice any of these signs in your child, you should consider making an appointment with a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine ( 212.996.1900 ).  In some cases, a podiatrist may just adopt a wait and see attitude, to monitor how the child feels and how his or her feet change over time. Tight calf and foot muscles an also play a part in flat feet, so your podiatrist may give you some calf and foot stretches to do with your child. If it appears the flat feet are causing a real problem for the child, the podiatrist may suggest custom orthotics that will give your child arch support and reduce pain.

 

Flat feet in a child aren’t a reason to panic, but they are something to keep an eye on. The important thing is how your child feels. Pay attention to his or her feet (and yours) and you’ll be fine!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.