What Causes Flat Feet In Children?

What Causes Flat Feet in Children? | UPMC Italy

Flat foot in children, up to the age of 6-7 years, is a normal condition, but if it does not go away as they grow older, then it is necessary to see a specialist to prevent this from leading to other leg and back disorders and problems.

Here is some useful information to know about this condition.

What Does It Mean to Have Flat Feet?

Flat feet in children are also known as over pronation or pes planus. Pediatric flatfoot means that the foot lacks a normal arch when standing.

Most children with flat feet have what’s known as flexible flat feet. That means they have a normal arch in their feet when they aren’t bearing weight on them. But when they put weight on their feet, the arch disappears.

Pediatric flatfoot can be classified as either symptomatic or asymptomatic. If children have pain with activity, it is considered symptomatic. Having flat feet can affect the body’s alignment. This can cause your child to have pain in their ankles, knees, and back. If no symptoms exist, then the flatfoot is considered asymptomatic.

What Causes Flat Feet in Children?

As your child grows, their arch develops with tendons, ligaments, and bones of the foot. The process takes place during the toddler years, around two or three years old. By age 10, most children usually develop an arch, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Let's look at some of the causes of flat foot:

  • Heredity.
  • Some rare hereditary connective tissue disorders (e.g., Helers-Danlos syndrome - EDS, Marfan syndrome) that cause loosening of the tendons.
  • Injury to tendons.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Tarsal coalition (rarely). This is one of the congenital foot deformities that can cause stiff flat feet. This condition is characterized by two or more bones in the foot growing or fusing together.

How Are Flat Feet Diagnosed?

Your child’s pediatrician or an orthopaedic specialist can diagnose flat feet. They’ll make a diagnosis by observing your child walking, standing, or running. And they’ll also do a physical exam and take a medical and symptom history of your child, including pain and discomfort. When necessary, diagnostic tests are prescribed to determine the cause.

How Are Flat Feet Treated in Children?

If they’re not in pain, children often don’t require treatment for flat feet. However, if your child’s flat feet cause pain, there are treatment options available which should be evaluated by a specialist, including:

  • Use of orthotics to relieve leg and back pain.
  • Painkillers, appropriately indicated by the specialist.
  • Physical therapy and stretching.
  • Nutritional program, if the flat foot is dependent on excess weight.
  • Minimally invasive surgery if symptoms cannot be relieved with previous solutions and if there is an underlying tendon or bone injury.

If you think your child has flat feet, attend our Pediatric Orthopedics Open Day on Sept. 23, 2023, by Dr. Alfredo Orefice.