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Flatfoot in Children

January 4, 2024

Pedsortho.com Staff

Topics - Developmental

Nature, Causes, and Treatment of Flatfoot in Children

Flatfoot, also known as pes planus, is a common condition in children where the arch of the foot is lower than usual or entirely absent when standing. While it can cause concern for parents, it is often a normal part of childhood development. Here are key aspects of flatfoot in children:

Characteristics

  • Lack of Arch: The arch of the foot is flat, so the entire sole tends to make contact with the ground.

  • Flexible vs. Rigid Flatfoot: In flexible flatfoot, the arch is visible when the child stands on tiptoes or sits, but not when standing. Rigid flatfoot, less common, means the arch is always absent, regardless of the foot's position.

  • Painless: Typically, flatfoot in children is painless and does not cause problems.

Causes

  • Normal Development: Many children have flat feet as a normal part of their development, and the arch develops as they grow.

  • Genetic Factors: A tendency towards flatfoot can run in families.

  • Connective Tissue Conditions: Conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome can cause flatfoot.

  • Tarsal Coalition: A rare condition where two or more bones in the foot grow together abnormally.

Diagnosis

  • Physical Examination: Observation of the feet while standing and walking.

  • Flexibility Tests: Checking if the arch appears when the child stands on tiptoe.

  • Imaging Tests: X-rays are rarely needed but might be used in cases where a structural abnormality is suspected.

Treatment

  • Observation and Monitoring: If the child is not experiencing any pain or difficulty with walking, treatment is usually not needed.

  • Orthotic Devices: Shoe inserts or custom orthotics can be used if there is pain or discomfort.

  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to strengthen the foot, ankle, and lower leg muscles might be recommended.

  • Surgery: Very rarely needed, only in severe cases or if other underlying issues are present.

Prognosis

  • Good Outcome: Most children with flatfoot do not experience any problems and outgrow the condition as their arch develops.

  • Regular Monitoring: For children with persistent flat feet, especially if there are symptoms, regular monitoring is advised.

It is important to consult a healthcare professional if there are concerns about a child's foot structure or walking pattern, especially if the flatfoot is rigid or associated with pain. They can provide guidance on whether treatment is necessary and what options are available.

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