Flatfoot is a condition that means the arch of the foot flattens when standing. Flatfoot can happen to people of any age, but it’s most common in children.
Almost all babies are born with flat feet. That’s because their bones and joints are flexible, which make their feet flatten when weight is put on them. As children grow, their bones become less flexible and arches develop in the feet.
If no arch is visible by the time the child is two or three years old, see a foot specialist. This is a critical time because the child’s bones are still soft. A flatfoot can change the structure of the bones and joints of the foot permanently.
Flatfoot causes the heel bone to turn outward and creates instability while walking. It can also cause foot and ankle pain. In addition, because the lack of arches can make the legs and knee turn inward, children may have pain in the low back, hip, knees or legs.
During an exam, the doctor will check your child’s feet when they stand and when they’re not bearing weight. If your child’s feet hurt or if more information is needed, X-rays will be taken. If the problem is severe, the doctor will recommend treatment.
A family history will also be taken. If a close relative has a painful flatfoot deformity, the doctor is more likely to recommend certain types of treatment.
If a child has a mild flatfoot with no pain or other symptoms, usually no treatment is needed. But if the symptoms are moderate or severe, or if a family member is flatfooted, treatment will be recommended.
Non-surgical treatments for flatfoot include:
- Supportive shoes
- Over-the-counter arch supports or prescription shoe inserts (orthotics)
- Stretching exercises for calf muscles
For more severe flatfoot concerns, surgery may be needed.