A. Flat feet is a condition where the arches of the feet are flattened. When walking, it appears as if the entire foot is resting flat on the ground, instead of the normal tripod shaped area of contact.
Flat feet are normal in the majority of small children and in more than 20% of adults as well. This is called flexible flat foot, because the arch can be seen when the person is sitting on standing on tip-toes, and disappears only when they are standing. This type of flatfeet is painless.
In some instances, flat feet can be a sign of an underlying abnormality of the bones/muscles/nerves or can occur due to certain types of arthritis. In these cases, the flatfoot is usually ‘rigid’, which means that the arch of the foot may not appear eve when sitting or on tip-toes. These disorders are often painful.
Q. Will my child grow out of his flat feet?
A. 80 to 90% of children with ‘flexible flatfeet’ do grow out of it. In small children, the arch of the foot is usually present but obscured because the feet are normally quite chubby at this age. The arch usually develops during the first ten years of life. In the remaining 10 to 20% of children, the flatfoot may persist into adolescence and adult life.
Q. Will my child need to have any tests?
A. Flexible flatfeet can be diagnosed simply by examining your child’s feet and legs. Usually, no investigations are required. However, if the flat feet are associated with pain, or are rigid, or there are signs of some nerve/muscle problem, your doctor might ask for x-rays or other tests.
Q. Is there any treatment for flat feet?
A. The vast majority of flatfeet are asymptomatic and do not require any treatment. There is no need for braces/shoe inserts/special shoes in children with flexible flat feet.
In some children with flatfeet, there is also some tightness of the calf muscles, which can be a source of pain. If this is found on examination, your doctor will advise some simple exercises to stretch out these muscles, known as heel cord stretching exercises.
Older children and teenagers with flat feet, sometimes complain of arch pain. Soft shoe inserts to support the arch can be helpful for them. Sports shoes that have in-built arch supports work just as well. There is no need for expensive custom-made braces or special shoes. Hard or rigid arch supports actually cause more pain and should be avoided.
Q. Can the flat feet cause my child pain/discomfort during athletics or regular activities?
A. The majority of children and adults with flat feet do not have any pain or discomfort. They are able to do all regular activities and even participate in sports.
Q. Will my child’s flat feet prevent him/her from playing sports or joining any job?
A. There are many professional athletes who have flat feet. Flat feet will not stop your child from playing any sport.