Flatfeet is very common in children; in fact, most children have flat feet and it is considered a normal stage of development. The arch of the foot typically develops slowly over a period of years; however, approximately 20% of children never develop an arch. Studies have shown that children that do not wear shoes develop an arch better than children that do wear shoes. Regardless, no child develops much of an arch until the age of three.
Children whose arch does not form will either develop flexible or rigid flatfeet. To determine which type of flatfoot a child has and if any treatment is needed, the physician will examine the child’s feet, perform a neurological exam, and watch their walking pattern.
Flexible flatfeet are the most common type of flatfeet. A child with a flexible flat foot has no arch when standing, but when sitting or doing a heel rise, the arch is present. This is due to laxity of the supporting ligaments of the arch and is often seen in children with ligamentous laxity or “loose joints”. Flexible flatfeet are rarely painful. Studies have shown that there is no long-term disability associated with flexible flatfeet.
Patients with flexible flatfeet my experience pain in their foot and ankle, especially as the get older. Orthotics and heel cord stretching are the first line of treatment, and are usually very successful. However, special shoes, inserts, wedges, and exercises do not create an arch and can be uncomfortable and expensive. For most patients with flexible flatfeet surgery is rarely needed to relieve pain symptoms.
Rigid Flat Feet
Rigid flatfeet are uncommon and may be due to abnormal connections between the bones in the foot. Rigid flatfeet tend to be painful as the child gets older, but symptoms can often be relieved using orthotics as the first line of treatment. Occasionally, surgery may be needed to relieve pain symptoms.
Flatfeet in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida
With five board-certified pediatric surgeons specializing in orthopaedics and scoliosis, the Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates team provides the highest level of comprehensive care to patients in the Tampa, Florida area. The Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates specialize in providing state-of-the-art comprehensive care, both surgical and non-surgical, to patients suffering from congenital orthopaedic anomalies, such as flatfeet.