What are Flat Feet?
Pes Planus (also known as flat feet or fallen arches), is a condition where the arch of the foot either fails to develop or collapses. Most feet have an arch on the inner side of the foot, however some children have a flattened arch. This means that the inside surface of the foot is in contact with the floor when standing causing “flat feet”.
At MyPhysioSA we assess children with flat feet and on most occasions advice on shoe wear is sufficient. In some children, specifically those with hypermobility or hypotonia further advice may be necessary. We can, upon assessment determine whether ongoing therapy is necessary, assist with treatment plans.
What Causes Flat Feet?
The arch in the foot normally develops between the ages of 3 and 6 as a baby’s fat pad is gradually absorbed and balance improves as skilled movements are acquired. In some children, however, the arch fails to develop. This may be the result of tightness in the calf muscles, hypermobility in the ligaments of the foot and ankle; poor stability in other areas, such as around the knees and hips.
What are the effects of Flat Feet?
In most children flat feet are asymptomatic and of no concern. However, over time flat feet may lead to an altered walking pattern; clumsiness; limping after long walks; and pain in the knees, foot, or hips. It is therefore important that appropriate treatment commences as early as possible. Occasionally very young children with hypermobility may present with significant rolling in of their feet and this may affect the acquisition of walking.
How can Physiotherapy Help?
Physiotherapy can help to reduce the problems associated with flat feet by:
- Providing advice on exercises to help stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak areas to aid development of correct foot posture
- Providing advice on appropriate footwear
- Advising on appropriate insoles to improve foot position and referral to a specialist Podiatrist if necessary
- Providing advice on pain management for older children.
Benefits of Physiotherapy for Flat Feet
- Improved foot posture
- Improved walking pattern
- Reduced pain and risk of secondary joint problems
What you can do
If your child has weakness of the muscles in their foot, you can provide opportunities for them to walk on different surfaces such as sand, grass, through water and up and down slopes. Sometimes we will suggest stretches to loosen tight muscles; doing these regularly at home will assist with your child’s therapy.
Facts & Numbers
- Prevalence of flexible flat foot in the group of 3- to 6-year-old children was 44%
- Prevalence of pathological flat foot was <1%.
- The prevalence of flat foot decreases significantly with age: in the group of 3-year-old children 54% showed a flat foot, whereas in the group of 6-year-old children only 24% had a flat foot.
- Boys had a significant greater tendency for flat foot than girls: the prevalence of flat foot in boys was 52% and 36% in girls.
- Significant differences in prevalence of flat foot between overweight, obese, and normal-weight children were observed.
- The long-term use of arch support foot orthoses proved to be feasible and effective in boys with flexible flat feet to improve lower limb alignment during walking.
For any questions related to your concerns regarding your child’s flat feet, feel free to call us at MyPhysioSA on 1300 189 289.
Written by Neel Pangaonkar, Senior Associate Physiotherapist at MyPhysioSA Payneham and The International Spine Centre.