Flat feet are one of the more common issues that millions of people deal with every day. It is a condition in which the arches of the feet have not properly developed, and the entire sole will touch the ground.
For parents who see their babies or toddlers with flat feet, do not panic. It takes some time for the arches to develop in their feet. Your physician will let you know if there is some issue with the development of the arches in your child’s feet. It’s also true that many adults will have their arches fall due to wear and tear, but that is a somewhat different condition compared to children who develop flat feet.
The good news for parents is that flat feet are not only common, but they are often painless. If that is the case, then you do not have to worry. However, sometimes flat feet can cause the body to misalign when standing, walking, jogging, or running. In this case, a child may develop issues with their knees and ankles as a result.
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Signs of Flat Feet In Toddlers
If your child exhibits the following symptoms, then they may need treatment for their flat feet.
- Pain in the feet, particularly in the arch or heel area
- Pain that increases with motion
- Heel cords that are tight
- Swelling of the ankles
Repeatedly spraining the ankles may be another sign that indicates treatment may be needed. Your doctor should be the first source of information about what to do next.
It helps if you can identify a specific time or incident in which your child started experiencing the pain and discomfort. You may find that the source is something simple and can be addressed immediately, such as poorly fitted shoes. A good way to avoid this condition is to ensure that the shoes fit properly and have the right arch support.
However, in many cases, there is no specific issue that causes the pain and discomforts your child is experiencing. Over time, the growth of their body combined with increased activity has probably caused such issues to gradually appear.
Getting Your Child Tested for Flat Feet
When your child has demonstrated one or more symptoms with their flat feet, they should be tested by a specialist known as a podiatrist. Your doctor will recommend this course of action if necessary. A podiatrist will generally conduct simple tests first to determine if the child’s motion is noticed when walking. Plus, the shoes that they wear every day will be examined to see if any patterns have developed.
The podiatrist will get a full history of the issues, ask the child to describe what is happening with their feet, and if the pain is caused by a particular activity. If the pain is significant, then the following may occur.
- CT Scan: Detailed images of the interior of the feet
- EOS Imaging: Creates a three-dimensional model of the feet
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Shows images of the soft tissues in the feet
- X–ray: To see if the bones of the feet are being affected
X-rays are often the last resort because of the radiation. But if there is a bone issue, the x-ray will show it. The combination of patient history, observation of movement, wear patterns in the shoes, and imaging of the feet itself will provide enough information for the podiatrist to prescribe a treatment.
Again, if your child is not suffering from any pain, discomfort, or issues that are causing injuries to occur, then you do not need to do anything else. Only when something is wrong, do you need to have the treatment applied.
Lose Weight: If your child is overweight, then the additional pressure may be causing the pain.
Pain Relief Medication: If the pain is temporary, then over the counter or prescription medications may be the answer.
Stretching: If the issue centers on the Achilles tendon, then some stretching exercises may work. This helps to relieve the tightness and reduce the amount of pain.
Support Shoes: In other words, avoid footwear that provides no support such as flip-flops and sandals. Instead, have your child wear shoes that provide arch support, and that may resolve the issue.
Support for Arches: Simple arch supports, which are often inserts for each shoe, may help relieve the pain and discomfort of flat feet. They are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased over the counter, or if your child has a particular issue, the insert can be custom-made.
If the issues with the feet develop because of overuse, such as from excessing running or movement, then the prescription may range from simple rest to physical therapy for pain relief. Your podiatrist will have several exercises that may be quite helpful in this regard.
Keep in mind that surgical solutions are rare and most often not needed. The only exceptions would be a broken bone, torn tendon, or other conditions that warrant surgery.
Another good news for parents that have children with flat feet is that follow-up care is normally not necessary once the condition has been identified. In other words, once the issues causing the pain has been treated, you do not need to have your child undergo yet another examination.
There are exceptions, but mostly regarding if the child has suffered some type of injury. This may change or alter the treatment needed to stop any additional pain. But for the most part, your child should be able to move about with little to no pain or discomfort once the recommended treatment has been applied.
Changing situations such as gaining weight or participating in activities that require additional running or movement may require additional arch support and even new footwear to compensate. Before your child tries out for a sport or activity that considerably increases their activity level, you may want to have them wear more rigid footwear to provide greater support.