As a podiatrist, I often see parents bringing in their kids that have flat feet. Usually the parents express concerns that if they have flat feet, then they will never be able to perform sports properly or they may walk funny as an adult.
I have some great news for you. It’s okay to have flat feet. It doesn’t usually affect the kids, mainly it affects the parents. As a parent of a 3 year old girl, I understand how we can get caught up in this and think something is wrong.
I’m going to discuss the podiatry perspective on flat feet and why you as a parent need not be concerned.
Firstly; it is normal for kids under 5 years old to have flat feet. Between the age of 2.5- 5 years old, the navicular bone (arch bone) begins to develop and take shape in the foot. (We are not born with all the bones in our feet- that’s why all kids feet are so flexible). When this navicular ossifies or fully develops, that is when kids normally develop an arch. Prior to 5 years old, you don’t need to worry.
Secondly, If a child after 6 years old has flat feet- so what? As a parent you need to ask the simple questions.
- Do their feet or knees hurt when they’re walking or doing things?
- Do you notice they fall or trip more than their peers or siblings?
- Are they lagging behind their peers? (Not keeping up)?
- Is there a history of problematic flat feet in the family?
- Is it only one foot affected?
If your kids have answered YES to any of those questions, then i would say a podiatry review would be beneficial. This doesn’t mean your child is doomed!
On the contrary, depending on the assessment, your child may need some simple calf stretches to help manage the pain or orthotics that may assist in retraining the way your child walks, assist in supporting them in sports and reduce the recurrence of falls.
Lastly, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Statistics show about 1 in 5 people never develop an arch. That’s 20% of the population. If your child has flat feet, but no symptoms, then why fix it? Most kids will have flat feet and will remain symptomless for a long time. However, if there is a genetic history of flat feet in the family, then at times, a podiatrist will intervene early and issue orthotics as a basis for preventing foot problems arising in the future.