Are Your Child's Feet Really Flat?

By Paul on 3/02/2016

We often have parents who are concerned about how much their childís foot is rolling in at the ankle (pronation) and consequently how flat the foot is. They want to know if they need to do anything about it.

Usually their child has been walking in thongs over the summer and the excessive rolling in has become more noticeable.

For over 10 years now, Total Care Podiatry has partnered with shoe stores in Geelong that specialise and care about the correct fitting of childrenís shoes. We've been offering a complimentary foot check opportunity so we can answer questions, check children's feet, recommend exercises and sometimes provide treatment options.

Almost everybody has some skeletal misalignment; knock knees, legs that turn in or turn out, high arches, being 'double jointed', etc. †The body is designed to compensate for these misalignments by using the muscle flexibility and strength and the mobility of the joints. Itís all managed by our brain and nervous system and the most common way we manage is by rolling in, or pronating. In fact, except for a very few conditions, the feet will pronate because it provides more available movement for the body to use. It's important to note that this doesn't mean you have flat feet. Your foot structure is actually what you can see when you're not standing up. You might be surprised that you do have an arch, but if there is any reason why your body needs to compensate when you stand up, your foot will roll in and the arch will flatten out. †This includes standing on hard flat surfaces which the foot often struggles to do.

Back to our story of the child whose parents are concerned about the rolling feet. †The first question we ask is "have they gone through growth phase in the last few months?" and commonly they have. Often when the leg bones grow very quickly the muscles overlying them become very stretched, and for a short period of time they are very tight and weakened. The body's response will be the default compensation movement of pronation and, if there is enough motion possible at the joints, the foot will pronate excessively, leading to a very flat foot indeed. we'll often be asked if they need orthotics because of their flat feet and when we counsel them that orthotics at this point would not be a good idea at all, they're quite suprised! If we use an orthotic to reduce the compensatory pronation to improve the look of the foot, it just creates another problem because the real problem is the tightness and weakness of the muscles due to the growth phase, rather than the resultant excessive pronation, even though it does look unusual.

Often some exercises, monitoring and time, is all that is required. Sometimes nature has to be helped with a couple of trips to the physiotherapist and perhaps some children will need orthotics after the muscles have once again gained their normal function. The key thing is to have these things checked to make sure. This gives you peace of mind and ensures no serious issue is missed. Our focus must always be on the whole body, rather than just one part, as it all works together. Caring totally! That's why we regularly have Children's Free Foot Check sessions.

Ring the clinic on 5223 1531 to find out when the next Childrenís Free Foot Check event is on or to book an appointment if you have any concerns about your child's foot and leg development.

WARNING: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist.