The arch of the foot helps to support us when we stand up or walk. Most children are born with very little arch in the feet. As they grow, develop, and begin to walk, the soft tissues along the bottom of the feet tighten and begin to shape into an arch. When the arch in the foot is not present, the condition is known as flatfoot. There are two types of flatfoot: flexible flatfoot and rigid flatfoot. In flexible flatfoot, the arch is present when the foot is not bearing any weight, but disappears when standing or walking. In rigid flatfoot, the arch is never present, whether bearing weight or not.
Causes and Risk Factors
Flatfoot is caused by abnormal foot development and can be hereditary.
Some children with flatfoot may have no symptoms, and children with flexible flatfoot often outgrow the condition eventually. Flexible flatfoot is typically not painful, while rigid flatfoot may cause pain during regular activities. See your pediatric orthopedic surgeon if your child experiences:
- Recurring foot pain, particularly in the heel or arch area
- Pain that worsens with activity
- Swelling along the inside of the foot
Children with flexible flatfoot usually outgrow the condition as their foot ligaments continue to develop. Treatment for flatfoot is only necessary if your child begins to experience pain or discomfort from the condition. Nonsurgical treatment options include:
- Physical therapy and stretching exercises
- Shoe inserts, such as arch supports
- Supportive, well-fitting shoes
- RICE treatment
Occasionally, flexible flatfoot can become rigid instead of correcting with growth. These cases may require surgical treatment to repair tendons or ligaments, or correct bone abnormalities.