Flat feet, or pes planus, is characterized by a decrease or totally collapse of the arch of the foot. Normally observed in toddlers, flat foot is not painful common among young children. However, in some cases children may complain of foot or ankle pain. Flat foot can be either rigid or flexible. A rigid flat foot does not change with position, while a flexible flat foot’s arch looks normal in some positions and seems to disappear when the child is standing.
Flexible flat foot is normal in toddlers, and arch development can occur from age 2 to around 6 years old. Treatment is usually not necessary. However, if the child complains of pain, some simple changes such as appropriate running shoes or orthotics can help. In addition, if the pain continues, physical therapy could be helpful, and in some cases, necessary. A physical therapist can assess how severe the deviation is, and if related impairments (such as significant tightness of calf muscles, or ankle weakness) are present. Treatment usually includes manual therapy, stretching, strengthening exercises, and balance training. A rigid flat foot is less common and should be examined by the pediatrician.
Early intervention can prevent continued pain, especially for active kids. If your child has complained about pain, a pediatrician or physical therapist can evaluate your child and differentiate between a rigid and flat foot to determine if treatment is necessary.