Imagine walking on a brand new floor. Would you feel more confident if it was stable, or if it sank and groaned under your weight? Structures with strong foundations are more stable and secure. This is also true for your body. Strong and healthy feet support you through your activities without pain. Establishing this foundation is important, and it begins in childhood, which is why so many parents are concerned about pediatric flat foot.
The Early Years Set the Course for Growth
Pediatric flat foot, or flat foot problems in children, is a common deformity in the lower limbs that may or may not cause pain. The arch of the foot does not develop properly, creating a midfoot that is flat instead of curved when your child stands. Your foot arch does serve an important purpose—it helps absorb the shock of your footsteps, as well as distribute your body weight evenly—so the lack of an arch could cause some problems. The condition may be present at birth, or may not appear until your son or daughter is older.
While many children live with flat feet without pain, symptomatic flat foot can be quite uncomfortable. It can cause tenderness or cramping in the arch and up the lower leg, especially during physical activities. The flatter the arches are, the more the heels tilt outward and create discomfort. It may create an awkwardness or change in the walking gait. Certain shoes may make the problem feel worse as well.
Risks and Warning Signs to Watch
Most pediatric flat foot is flexible, which means the arches appear when your child rises up on tiptoe or while sitting. The midfoot is still moveable and may form an arch when you child is older. Rigid flat foot, however, may cause more trouble for your child and should be watched. Rigid flatfoot is rare. The bones in the midfoot do not move or display an arch when your child rises up on his or her toes at all. This is more likely to cause pain, and may actually be a precursor to a more serious condition, like tarsal coalition.
Treating the Problem
Treating pediatric flat foot is usually done conservatively and only when the condition has symptoms. If your child has flat feet but no pain or problems walking, the limbs may not need any additional support. If you child does have pain, however, Dr. Patel and our staff will carefully evaluate your lower limbs and diagnose the problem. From there we can help you determine the best way to manage the condition.
Shoe changes and arch supports are some of the best ways to stabilize the midfoot and relieve stress on the lower limbs. Look for footwear that offers appropriate arch support and avoid styles with totally flat soles. Custom orthotics can add extra support as well. They can also help correct biomechanical issues that may arise from having flat arches. When the foot is in pain, have your child take a break from all hard-impact activities to rest his or her feet. Physical therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen the lower limbs may help decrease discomfort. In very rare circumstances, surgery may be required.
Pediatric flat foot is a common problem, but that doesn’t mean you have to let your child suffer. Dr. Sanjay Patel and our staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. in Connecticut are specialists for children’s lower limb problems. Just let us know and see how we can help restore your child’s lower limbs. Send us a request through our website or call to reach us for an appointment: (203) 876-7736 for the Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden location.