Is It Normal For My Child To Have Flat Feet?

As parents, we’re often concerned about many aspects of our children’s wellbeing and development – and their feet are no exception. When kids have flat feet, especially when arches haven’t formed by the time a child starts school, we see many parents concerned about:
  • If flat feet are normal at school age?
  • Will they develop arches?
  • Are they destined for foot pain?
  • Should I be doing something now to help?
  • Am I too late?
To help fill in the gaps, today our podiatrists have shared our insight into children’s flat feet, when you should seek treatment, and when you should breathe a sigh of relief. 

Flat Feet Are Normal In Young Children

First thing’s first: flat feet are normal in young children. Their foot muscles are still developing, the fat pads around the feet are more prominent, they’re still very flexible – so having flat feet at this age is not something to worry about in most cases.

Flat Feet At School Age

School age is when we’d expect to see an arch start to form. Kids are constantly on their feet, their muscles are strengthening and lengthening, their ligaments are growing strong – so it’s common that we’d start to see arches form at this age, especially by 7 years old. If arches haven’t developed by this age, there’s a good chance that they may not and your child may have a flatter foot type.

Flat Feet And Foot Pain

It’s important to note that while having flat feet can make your child more likely to develop pain or problems with their feet and legs as they grow and into adulthood, it does not mean that they are destined for a future of tired, achy feet. We see many children and adults with flat feet who experience no pain or symptoms.  Similarly, we also see even more people who do experience some form of pain, discomfort or injury that is associated with their flat feet. Often it’s because muscles and ligaments have to work harder for every step taken with a flatter foot type, making them more prone to overuse.

Helping Kids With Flat Feet

Trust your instincts. If something you’re seeing about your child’s walking or their flat feet is concerning you, bring them in to be assessed. This is especially important if the flat feet are paired with:
  • Regular tripping or falling
  • Foot or leg pain
  • Being unable to complete full sports games or training without discomfort
  • Never being able to find comfortable shoes
Our experienced podiatrists will complete a comprehensive assessment to understand exactly how your child’s feet and legs are working together, where any overuse is occurring, and what the best next steps are.  For some kids, this means switching to a supportive and stabilising pair of shoes and monitoring development over the coming years. For others, it means slipping a pair of custom orthotics into their school shoes that they will barely notice – but that may help them have long, comfortable days on their feet – or full sports games without pain.

You Are Not Too Late To Help Flat Feet

Flat feet do not have a short window where you must take action in order for an arch to develop – it’s often genetics that will influence your child’s foot type. What’s important for you to help with is whether this foot type is allowed to cause pain and other symptoms. Here at Perform Podiatry, we’re parents too – so we get it. We’d love to help your family stay healthy, happy and active – book your appointment by calling us on 09 523 2333 or book your appointment online.

Here’s Why Being Pregnant Made Your Feet Bigger

It’s not a myth. Pregnancy really can and does make women go up in shoe size, and unfortunately, for some women, their feet stay bigger too. This phenomenon can be confusing, after all, why can your foot size increase when you’re pregnant but not when you put on weight? Today, we’re sharing exactly why.

A hormone called ‘Relaxin’

When you’re pregnant, your body is flooded with a number of different hormones. One of these is called relaxin, and it’s responsible for helping to soften and loosen your ligaments and tissues. This is essential as your body is constantly growing and expanding to accommodate your growing baby. Without softer ligaments, this process could be very painful.

Aside from helping the ligaments and tissues in your abdominal area expand, it also affects your feet, as well as the rest of your body. You have a lot of ligaments in your feet that are responsible for keeping bones stable, held in position, and supported. As these loosen, your foot may ‘relax’ and flatten – especially with the increased weight and pressure they’re under. This can result in both an increased width and length of the foot, as well as a generally ‘flatter’ foot.

This is why your feet generally do not increase in size with weight gain (unless there are other factors involved), but do in pregnancy.

Can I prevent my feet from changing size?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent hormones from flooding your body and having this effect. What you can do is keep your feet supported throughout your pregnancy. This includes:

  • Wearing comfortable, stable and supportive footwear
  • Using custom orthotics to support and promote the natural shape and contours of your feet

By keeping your arch supported, you can help limit the stretching of the ligaments on the feet. Having your feet supported with shoe and orthotics can also help prevent overuse injuries from muscles and tendons of the feet and legs having to work harder to keep you moving with a flatter foot position. 

Your shoes will also help restore some stability that may be lost with looser ligaments. A good example is ankle sprains – with the ligaments supporting your ankle not being as ‘firm’ as they originally were, you may have a higher risk of ankle sprains. Wearing good, supportive shoes that cup the ankle can help prevent this.

Wear the right size shoes

If your feet have gone up in size and width, make sure you get shoes that fit your new size and don’t try to squeeze into your previous pairs. Trust us, as parents ourselves, the last thing you want with a new baby is foot pain. Invest in new comfortable shoes to limit any rubbing against the sides of your feet, and pressing up against the front of your toes.

Returning back to your original foot size

While some people will return back to their original foot size, others won’t. It’s hard to predict – and even harder to control. Our best advice is to keep your feet supported and protected throughout your pregnancy.

Need help staying comfortable on your feet?

Our experienced podiatry team would love to help. We’re parents too – so we totally get it. You can book your appointment online by clicking here or call us on (09) 523 2333

Help! I’ve Got Flat Feet

When we see patients for whatever problem or pain they’re having, one thing that they’re often quick to point out is having flat feet (for those that do). This happens because a lot of people associate having flat feet with having foot problems, regardless of their history of foot pain or if their flat-footedness has resulted in their problems or not. Because this is a common thought pattern among patients (well, at least in our experience here in Auckland), we thought we’d share a little more about flat feet and what they REALLY mean.

Flat feet: The basics

Having flat feet describes the biomechanical and structural position of the feet, which is characterised by rolling in at the ankles and showing little to no arch on the inside border of a foot. This is how the term ‘fallen arches’ was coined. This is medically referred to as pes planus, with the term for rolling in at the ankle joint when walking known as pronation. As the severity of pronation can range from mild to severe, podiatrists can measure the angle of your shin bone relative to your calcaneus, or use a Foot Posture Index (FPI), to help grade the level of pronation and best direct treatment where it is indicated. It should be noted that:
  • Flat feet are relatively common, and that having flat feet does not mean you are definitely going to have foot or leg issues or pains
  • Pronation is also a natural and necessary part of each step we take, helping our feet to absorb shock and adapt to the uneven surfaces
Flat feet are, however, linked with a greater incidence of foot problems because of the effect this position has on your bones, joints, muscles and ligaments. This happens because we over-pronate past the point that is necessary and healthy for our feet.

What causes flat feet and overpronation?

Typically, it comes down to the biomechanics of your feet and the way your bones, joints, muscles and ligaments are working together. Some people may have flat feet from birth and others may develop them over time and in association with other conditions. Causes may include:
  • Bone or joint irregularity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tendonitis, such as in the posterior tibial tendon
  • Ligament laxity
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Injury / Trauma
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes

What are the symptoms of flat feet?

The symptoms of flat feet aren’t necessarily painful themselves, but the stress and pressure they put on the surrounding tendons and structures can cause pain as tendinopathies and other issues develop. These tend to be exacerbated by long periods of time on the feet and high-impact activities. When podiatrists evaluate the severity of flat feet, they often look for signs as opposed to symptoms. These include:
  • Shoes wearing out quickly on the inner side
  • Talonavicular bulging (a bulge on the inside of the foot)
  • Abducted forefoot (seeing your toes pushing out on the outside of the feet when looking at the heel)
  • The position of your heel bone and whether it’s rolling in or out
  • The shape of your arch
  • Talar head palpation (being able to feel the head of your talus bone at the ankle evenly when you’re standing)
  • The curvature below your malleoli (bony bumps on the sides of your ankle)
  • The position of your feet in a ‘neutral’ position (referred to as ‘subtalar joint neutral’) versus their position when standing relaxed

Do flat feet NEED treatment, and how are they treated?

If you’ve gone through 30 or 40 years with flat feet and have never developed any aches, pains or other symptoms, then no you don’t require treatment. Your body has adapted and adjusted to your foot position and has made everything else work accordingly. Which is great! When problems and pains do arise, treating flat feet is more to do with treating the problem the flat feet are creating or contributing to as opposed to treating flat-footedness itself. This does often involve changing and ‘correcting’ the alignment and position of the foot. We often use custom-prescribed orthotics to alter the alignment and positioning of the feet, as well as manage various conditions where overpronation is causing problems and pain. Having supportive footwear that stabilises the foot and ankle as opposed to letting it roll is also a key part of management. Strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles can also help to support the better positioning and functioning of the foot. If you’re worried about the effect that your flat feet are having on the rest of your body, you should your feet and legs assessed by one of our expert podiatrists here at Perform Podiatry. We’ll be able to show you the impact of your flat feet on your feet and legs (and your daily activities and sports) and discuss with you the appropriate management options. To book in, give us a call on 09 523 2333 or book online.

I have flat feet – What does that mean?

Let us put your mind at ease. Just because you have flat feet, doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

Our bodies are complex and incredible. We’re all born with bones of varying lengths, with muscles of very lengths and strengths,  and with ligaments of varying flexibilities. Yet when it comes to the effective functioning of the feet and legs to allow us to walk comfortably and for very long lengths of times – we’re all able to do it! Our bones, joints, ligaments and muscles work together and our body compensates for individual variances. It’s exactly the same with flat feet. Many people (and Podiatrists themselves) have very flat feet, yet remain completely asymptomatic. They experience no pain, they can walk and run just as fast as anyone with ‘arches’ and it causes no disruption to their day to day lives. In this case, having flat feet does not mean that anything is wrong or that you need to fix something or recreate an arch.  

However, if you’re getting symptoms such as pain, then it does become problematic.

Regardless of whether you have flat feet or high arches, pain is our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t working. If you’re getting pain, tenderness, or discomfort in your feet or legs, and you have flat feet, then it very well may be related. This is because the flatter your feet are, the harder certain muscles have to work as your feet flatten very close to the ground and then lift off again as you take your next step. The harder muscles work, the faster they tire, and the more vulnerable they are to overuse injuries and strains. In this case, having devices such as orthotics that are prescribed specifically for your feet by a Podiatrist (orthotics are not a one-size-fits-all product and never let a salesman convince you that any orthotic will do the trick) can genuinely help to support the musculature at your feet and legs. Supporting the muscles means you move optimally and will place less strain on muscles overall. Don’t get us wrong – there are orthotics you can use that are pre-made, but make sure you let your Podiatrist make that call after a thorough examination of your feet and legs. This won’t often be the case if you have a specific injury.  

So to sum up…

If you have flat feet but are happy, healthy and don’t get any symptoms or pain in your feet or legs – great! This means your body is happily compensating and working with your foot type at your current activity level. If you are getting painful symptoms, stop. Don’t put more strain on your feet, and get them checked by your Podiatrist and find out what’s really going on and if it’s being caused by your flat feet – it may not be. Also be careful – you may find that if you increase your activity level you may start to become symptomatic, so keep that in mind and get your feet checked if you start developing pain. For the best Podiatry service in Auckland, come and see our experts at Perform Podiatry here in Remuera. We’re part of the One Health building and are committed to seeing you performing at your best! We’re foot health experts and are proud to be serving our community and beyond.