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.

Helping Auckland Families With Growing Pains

Growing pains are one of the most common pains that we see and treat in kids. While some mistake growing pains for when active kids overuse the muscles of the feet and legs to a point where they are very tired, achy and sore, this isn’t the case. Others have been told that growing pains aren’t treatable and must be waited out or just put up with – which also couldn’t be further from the truth! Growing pains affect children aged between 8 and 16 years and get their name because they can only be experienced while they’re still growing, meaning that these pains can’t affect adults. Most often, but not always, the painful symptoms come on during a growth spurt and while it’s often in kids that are active – it’s definitely not always the case

Understanding growing pains

To understand how and why growing pains can develop, you must know that the way that all our bones get bigger as we grow is through areas in the bones called growth plates. These growth plates, medically known as apophyses, these are the areas to which your body adds new bone. As these areas are constantly in ‘development mode, they aren’t as strong as the surrounding bone, meaning that when the bones are placed under strain and tension (like during exercise!), these growth plates are more vulnerable to damage and the painful symptoms that come with them.

While the bones grow, the attaching muscles grow too

While our bones are growing, so are our muscles – and lengthening to keep up and support them both functioning as a healthy and strong team. While our muscles and bones will ideally grow at a similar rate, at times the muscles won’t keep up and the result will be tight muscles that create a pull on the bone – particularly during running, running sports and exercise. When this tension happens near a growth plate in the bone, the growth plate can become irritated and leave your child with pain and swelling. 

Where do growing pains develop?

The knees, the heels and the feet are the three areas in the body where growing pains affect kids most commonly. We help children effectively manage and relieve their symptoms in all three areas, so they can get back to doing the things they love and not sit out entire sports seasons!

Knee pain – Osgood Schlatters disease

Growing pains at the knees involve the irritation of the growth plate at the top of the shin bone. The patellar tendon, which is the one that runs from the front of your thigh, across the knee and attaches to the top of the shin bone, is the one that tends to create the tight pull and affect the neighbouring growth plate. Symptoms of Osgood Schlatters include pain and swelling when feeling below their kneecap. The symptoms are worsened by running and activities that bend the knee.

Heel pain – Sever’s disease

Growing pains at the heels occur in the very back of the heel, where the growth plate is located, next to the Achilles tendon. As the Achilles is the strongest and largest tendon in the body, if it is tight, it can place massive tension and strain on the back of the heel every time we walk and run. In adults, for some of us it even causes us to lift our heel up early off the ground or be unable to place our heels completely on the ground when the tendon is very tight. In Sever’s, pain is felt at the back of the heel and may radiate or shoot up the leg. There may be some swelling, and your child may limp when the symptoms are in full swing, until they can get some rest.

Foot pain – Iselin’s disease

Growing pains in the feet occur on the outside-middle edge of the foot. Run your fingers along the outside edge of the foot – if you feel a bony bump around the middle, that’s where your child will feel their painful symptoms, swelling and tenderness. It is the peroneus brevis tendon that travels down the outer leg, across the outer ankle, and attaches to that bony bump (your ‘styloid’) that causes the growth plate irritation in this case. This tends to be the least common growing pain of the three – though we still see it in plenty of children every year!

Is your child experiencing pain in their feet or legs?

Pain is never a normal part of growing up – it’s always an indication that something is wrong – and in most cases, this something can be treated when it has a clear cause – which it definitely does in growing pains. Often, there are a number of factors that contribute to the increased strain from the muscles and tendons – including the structure and function of the feet and legs, footwear, the way they walk, muscle strength, and more.  We’re parents too – and we understand how important it is to get the very best care for your child – and that they can enjoy the experience too! Our podiatry team starts each appointment by understanding exactly what’s going on and causing the pain – and then puts the right care in place to both treat your child’s current symptoms and to prevent the problem from recurring in the future. We’re here to help. Book your appointment online here or call us on 09 523 2333