What is pediatric flatfoot?
When the inside border of a foot is flatter than normal, this is considered a flatfoot. People with flatfeet usually develop the condition in childhood and sometimes grow into having normal arches. In many cases though, the flatfoot remains and may require supportive shoes or custom orthotics to prevent the development of worse conditions.
Diagnosing pediatric flatfoot
In the early stages of childhood, it is difficult to diagnose flatfoot because the foot usually still has a significant amount of baby fat and undeveloped structure.
Around the age of two or three, the foot exhibits a more defined structure, and flatfoot is easier to identify. It’s important to have a podiatrist examine flatfeet to determine what kind of support may be necessary to protect the soft bone and cartilage present in a child’s feet, so no permanent damage occurs in other parts of the foot due to lack of support.
In cases with exaggerated symptoms, the podiatrist may order X-rays to see if there is more damage or another factor causing flatfoot symptoms.
Symptoms of pediatric flatfoot
When examining a child for signs of flat feet, your podiatrist will look for:
- Flatness on the arch along the inside of the foot
- An outward bowing appearance due to shifts in the heel bone
- Excessive flexibility in the joints of the foot
- Instability when walking or running
- Complaints about discomfort in the foot, heel, or ankle
Treating pediatric flatfoot
In cases of mild flatfoot, there is usually no treatment, but it is recommended to schedule yearly check-ups with your podiatrist to monitor the possibility of further developing flatfoot symptoms.
Treatment for moderate to severe flat feet includes:
- Supportive shoes
- An insert to support the arch
- Custom orthotics to support the arch and limit the rolling of the heel bone in more severe cases
- Exercises to strengthen the calf muscles
Flatfoot typically responds to conservative methods such as those above, but in extreme cases, surgery may be required to correct the deformity.