Flat Feet in Children: Diagnosis, Treatment

Overview of Flatfoot

Flatfoot is a common condition that affects the shape and formation of the foot. Medically speaking, flatfoot is sometimes referred to as a pronated foot. When an individual suffers from this condition, the foot arch disappears as they stand. Furthermore, the foot is positioned completely flat on the ground.

There are three known forms of flatfoot that doctors are aware of. And they are flexible flatfoot, flexible flatfoot with a short Achilles tendon, and rigid flatfoot. Individuals who suffer from a flexible flatfoot suffer from a condition that affects both of the feet. This condition does not induce pain, nor does it cause any physical disability. Conversely, flexible flatfoot with a short Achilles tendon causes both pain and disability in some cases. Rigid flatfoot is only seen infrequently, but it emerges in those who have an issue with the bone formation in their feet. One in four individuals with flatfoot suffer from some degree of pain and disability.

80% to 90% of all North American babies have flatfoot. Most of these babies have flexible flatfoot in particular. Generally, children simply outgrow this condition. But alarmingly, 20% of all adults in North America retain the flatfoot condition throughout their lives. 25% of those afflicted with flatfoot have flatfoot with a short Achilles tendon, and 9% have the condition known as rigid flatfoot.

Symptoms of Flatfoot

Children with flexible flatfoot usually require no medical treatment. However rigid flatfoot causes many medical issues. Typically, when the children with this condition experience pain, it is localized in a single region of the foot, not throughout the foot.

Diagnosis

During the diagnostic process, the medical professional will observe the child’s foot and ankle. The doctor will examine the child’s foot and ankle as they are standing. The child may be instructed to either dangle the foot, or to stand on their tiptoes. During the diagnostic assessment, the child’s foot and ankle joints will be examined, as well. If the child shows decreased movement in the ankle, they may have a short Achilles tendon. Sometimes, a radiograph is required to retrieve more information about the child’s foot.

Treatment

Flatfoot can be treated both surgically and nonsurgically. The non-surgical treatments for flatfoot generally apply to children with normal flexible flatfoot. If they experience some pain or aching after activities, then cushioned support may provide them with more comfort. If there is no pain, no treatment is required.

If a child is at least 8 years old and has a short Achilles tendon, then surgery is most likely required.