How to Spot and Treat Flat Feet in Children
The human foot is a complex beast, made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments.
As well as being interesting, these facts highlight how notoriously hard children’s feet can be to diagnose properly. Flat feet are one such problem, which we’ll look at in this post.
Raising the issue of flat feet
Babies are born with a pad of fat where adult arches would be, part of the reason we find them endlessly cute and chubby.
In fact, at birth a baby’s foot contains no fully formed bones. It consists instead of soft, pliable bone, like cartilage. As your child grows, their soft bones ossify and become more and more solid. Gradually the shape of the fully-grown foot will take form.
Flat feet is when there is no developed arch while standing. It’s common in toddlers because they have weak muscle tone in the foot, loads of fat padding and loose ankle ligaments that let the foot lean inwards.
When your child starts walking, these ligaments and muscles strengthen. By the time they’re five, a more prominent medial arch should have developed. Sometimes it keeps forming up until the age of around eight or nine.
Two ways to check if your child has flat feet is to either get them to stand on tiptoe or to dangle their feet in the air from a high chair or table. Both methods allow a curved arch to be seen more prominently. Look out for any sign of curvature.
But please don’t be concerned if your child is flat-footed at this stage of development! Between 3-13% of kids have flat feet. Just keep an eye on it and think about getting some advice should your child start to feel discomfort or pain.
How to buy shoes for flat footed kids
Remember that barefoot is best, as long
as the environment allows it. Going barefoot helps the muscles and ligaments strengthen
with as little interference as possible (a vastly different outlook than the
rigid, restrictive shoes from yesteryear).
When it comes to shoes, it’s so important to give kids room to grow, because badly-fitted or poorly-designed shoes can adversely affect your child’s feet. For example, large gaps between young bones can be bent out of shape without children even noticing or feeling pain.
Try to avoid excessively flared or undershot heels, which can cause instability. Instead, choose shoes with flexibility, durability and stable heel counters. Flexibility is so key, especially for toddlers, as best foot health practice is to mimic the freedom of movement as closely as possible (which is why Bobux early stage ranges are more flexible than an acrobat).
Note that while built-in arch support won’t actually make an arch develop, specific lasts like Bobux’s I-Walk allow for the healthy development of a natural arch .
Three footwear advice tips to minimise flat feet
1. Shoes should protect and enhance
your child's foot function, not inhibit or restrict their gait.
Natural toe shapes,
leather uppers, soft & breathable materials and fully-adjustable fastenings
help achieve this.
2. Your child’s feet should be measured regularly to ensure the best shoe fit (6 weeks during the first walker phase, 2 months during other phases). Optimal g rowing room should be 10mm for pre-walkers and 14mm for older children.
3. A leading cause of podiatry problems in adulthood is poorly fitting shoes in childhood. Now is the time to ensure kids have healthy feet for life!
There are plenty of options for kids with flat feet, including our range of shoes that can help their feet develop more healthily, using the latest foot health recommendations.
Naturally, if your child experiences any form of pain, make sure you consult your podiatrist. Otherwise, have a read of another great foot health post about common kids’ foot problems, written by our podiatrist ambassador Anna Beetham.