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Flat feet in Children

Does your child have flat feet?

Parents often ask us if it is necessary to treat a child for flat feet. Obviously they are concerned for the welfare and well-being of their children, so there is nothing “silly” about such requests.

Hopefully this advice can help set some minds to rest.

Children are not “little adults”

Their feet and legs are not miniature versions of an adult form, as the child undergoes various lower limb changes during its first few years.

If you look at an x-ray of a child’s feet, you might be surprised to note that there is hardly anything visible!

This is because the bones ossify (go hard) over a period of years, starting at the top and working down to the toes. Some bones only completely harden during the teenage years.

Before ossifying, they are more like cartilage, i.e. rubbery, similar to a shark’s skeleton, only cuter (unless you really like sharks).

Posture changes as you grow

At the age of 2 a child would be expected to walk in a posture that is bow-legged and flat-footed, with the toes pointing outward or inward, feet positioned far apart to form a wide base and the knees remain partly flexed. The child will also lean forward with arms out to the sides, as if walking on a tightrope.

Between the ages of 2 and 6 years, the bow-legged stance changes to a knock-kneed stance, the foot type becomes more visible (short and broad, square, hyper-mobile, long and slender, triangular, or a long inner border) and the inside arch starts becomes more noticeable.

Beyond age 6 years there are factors that can cause the child’s foot to function in a flat posture (lowered inside arch). These include bio-mechanical issues in the foot and leg that arise from abnormalities during the growth and maturation stages.

Should a flat foot be treated?

At Randell’s our advice generally follows the ‘traffic light system’

GREEN LIGHT means not to treat; the child has no symptoms and they are in the stage of development when it is expected to have flat feet.

AMBER LIGHT means that it up to the clinician’s discretion; the child has flat feet outside the developmental phase but no symptoms. Monitoring is recommended.

RED LIGHT recommends treatment; the child is experiencing symptoms, regardless of the stage of development they are in. The use of functional orthoses is often prescribed.

Obviously that’s a lot to take in and parents may still be unsure. That’s okay. We’re here to help. If you have any concerns about your children’s feet (or your own), then please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to assist you. Find more help https://randellsfootcare.co.uk/child-footcare/

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