Flat feet (also known as "prenated foot" or "fallen arches") is a condition where one or both feet do not display a normal arch when standing, walking or running. In infancy, all children appear to be flat footed because of a soft fat pad on the foot. Over time, however, that fat pad dissipates and you will be able to discern a clear arch when the child stands. With flat-footed children the foot may appear normal when sitting, but once weight is applied to the foot, it will roll forward at the ankle creating the appearance of a flat or fallen arch.
Flat feet are usually painless and nonthreatening. Unfortunately, in severe cases, a prenated foot condition may lead to pain or aching in the ankle and foot. If your child complains that they are experiencing foot or ankle pain, it is important that they see a foot specialist to discern the root cause. The doctor can determine if fallen arches are the culprit, rather than more serious hip or knee issues. In some rare cases, flat feet may actually be the result of fused foot bones. A simple X-ray can help determine if that is the case. In some cases, the child may benefit from the use of a custom orthotic insole or heel cup that will resituate the foot and alleviate discomfort. Surgery is not a common treatment for children with flat feet, nor is activity avoidance. Most flat-footed children live very normal lives, playing sports and running just as children with normal arches. Treatment is really focused on alleviating pain, and not permanently correcting the arch itself.
When looking for orthotic inserts to treat your child's foot pain, look for quality which will deliver longer-lasting comfort. Custom orthotic insoles are generally the best choice. You want an insole that will cushion the foot, absorb shock, and transfer to many of the child's shoes for a consistently comfortable fit. There are a number of different insole styles available depending on your child's needs. Consult with your doctor to determine what type of support the child requires.
Chris Dillon is the V.P. of MMAR Medical Group Inc., a leading orthotic device supplier specializing in diabetic footwear including shoes and socks for diabetics as well as a full line of orthotic insoles.