Babies are often born with flat feet, which may last well into their childhood. This is because children's bones and joints are flexible, causing their feet to flatten when they stand.
Young babies also have a fat pad on the inner border of their feet that hides the arch. You still can see the arch if you lift your baby up on the tips of the toes, but it disappears when they're standing normally. The foot may also turn out, increasing the weight on the inner side and making it appear even more flat.
When do children typically outgrow flat feet?
Normally, flat feet disappear by age 6 as the feet become less flexible and the arches develop. Only about 1 or 2 out of every 10 children will continue to have flat feet into adulthood.
Do flat feet need to be treated?
For children who do not develop an arch, treatment is not recommended unless the foot is stiff or painful. If that's the case, your child's doctor may recommend an x-ray to check if some of some of the small foot bones are fused or connected, a condition called a tarsal coalition. Shoe inserts won't help your child develop an arch, and may cause more problems than the flat feet themselves.
However, certain forms of flat feet may need to be treated differently. These include:
Achilles tendon: tight heel
A child may have tightness of the heel cord (Achilles tendon) that limits the motion of their foot. This tightness can result in a flat foot, but it usually can be treated with special stretching exercises to lengthen the heel cord.
Tarsal coalition: rigid feet
Rarely, a child will have truly rigid flat feet because of a
tarsal coalition, which can cause problems. Children with this condition have difficulty moving the foot up and down or side to side at the ankle. The rigid foot can cause pain and, if left untreated, can lead to arthritis.
This rigid type of flat foot is seldom seen in an infant or very young child. More often, rigid flat feet develop during the teen years and should be evaluated by your child's pediatrician.
Symptoms that should be checked by a pediatrician include:
sores or pressure areas on the inner side of the foot
a stiff foot
limited side-to-side foot motion
limited up-and-down ankle motion
For further treatment you should see a
pediatric orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist experienced in childhood foot conditions.