Podiatrist Examining a Young Girl's FootProbably not, but it depends on your child's age and whether the condition causes pain or negatively affects their gait. Here's what you need to know about flat feet in children, when to see a podiatrist, and how the caring and capable specialists at Shenandoah Podiatry can help ensure your child's feet are developing properly.

Understanding Your Anatomy: Flat Feet

Flat feet (also called flat foot) is a condition where one or both feet have little to no arch, allowing the entire sole of the affected foot (or feet) to press into the ground when standing. While this might sound or look worrisome, flat feet aren't necessarily a cause for concern, particularly in young children. All babies are born with flat feet with pudgy fat pads where their arches would be. Typically, arches begin developing in early childhoodbetween ages three and fourand by age six, most children have fully formed, visible arches. However, in some cases, arches either never form or fall later in life, which can lead to a variety of podiatric problems.

Additionally, some children have a condition known as flexible flat foot, in which defined arches are visible when the child sits, lifts their feet, or stands on their tiptoes, but disappears when walking or weight-bearing. Like all forms of childhood flat feet, most children grow out of the condition without experiencing any lasting negative effects.

Causes for Concern

Many childrenand even adultswith flat feet don't experience pain or other problems related to the condition. If your child is younger than six, doesn't complain of any pain or discomfort, and walks, runs, and plays normally, it probably isn't necessary to schedule an immediate appointment with a podiatrist. However, if your child is six years or older and still hasn't developed arches, you should be aware of the following signs and symptoms, which may indicate cause for concern:

  • Pain, aching, or fatigue in the muscles of the feet or legs
  • Pain in the heel or arch area or along the outside of the foot
  • Pain when walking
  • Changes in how your child walks (their gait)
  • Walking with the toes and front part of the foot pointed outward (toe drift)
  • Swelling along the inside of the ankle
  • Ankle and knee discomfort
  • Leg cramps
  • Tight heel cords
  • Difficulty walking or running
  • Frequent tripping and falling
  • Reluctance or inability to play with their peers or participate in sports

Treating Childhood or Adolescent Flat Foot

If your child has flat feet and suffers from persistent foot pain that limits their activities, there's good news: Shenandoah Podiatry offers a wide range of gentle treatment options for relieving pain and promoting proper foot development. Here are examples of things we may recommend during the course of treatment:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Going to physical therapy
  • Wearing over-the-counter or custom orthotic inserts or insoles
  • Opting for children's shoes that offer more arch support
  • Doing exercises that stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon

In very rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct flat feet that are causing severe pain or mobility issues for your child. However, you and your child can rest assured that surgery is always the last option, reserved for when relevant non-invasive, conservative treatments have failed to provide the desired results.

Schedule an Appointment

As parents, guardians, and other caregivers, it's natural to worry about whether our children's development is progressing as expected. At Shenandoah Podiatry, we know what it's like to want the best for your child and their future. Our specialists, Dr. Jennifer Keller, Dr. Natalie Allen, and Dr. Marissa Icardi, are dedicated to helping young patients put their best feet forward. Complete our online contact form or call us at 540-904-1458 to schedule an appointment.