Humans are thought of as one of the most sophisticated creatures on earth. One of the reasons is our spine, which helps us to stand straight and walk on two legs. This is possible because the spine forms the centerline of our body and all the organs are symmetrically placed on either side. While walking, the weight of the body shifts from one leg to another. Humans also have a horizontal foot, which helps us to stand more comfortably.
A baby is born with flat feet, but as the child grows, the feet form an arch along the inner border of the foot. Sometimes the arch in a child's foot does not develop properly, and the entire sole of the foot touches the ground, a condition called flat feet.
Flat foot is very common in adults and in children and can be found in one or both feet. There are many types of flat foot, and they all share one common characteristic – the partial or total collapse of the arch.
Causes of Flat Foot
In children age 3 to 10, flat feet are mostly caused by:
Infant fat between the joints in the foot
Loose joints or ligaments in the foot
Fusion of two or more bones in the foot, limiting its motion and resulting in flat foot – a condition called tarsal coalition
Pronation – a condition where the legs are turned at an angle where the ankle bone is leaning inward towards the centerline
Wearing shoes that cause pronation
Consulting a Doctor
Flat feet in children or adults typically do not cause foot problems. There are two types of flat foot in children – symptomatic and asymptomatic. An asymptomatic condition does not have any accompanying symptoms.
Children with symptomatic flat foot frequently complain of pain, tenderness, and cramping in the foot, ankle, heel, or arch, and/or pain while walking or running. The child may have abnormal or awkward walking. The heel may point outward making wearing shoes difficult. Due to stiff, weak, and numb feet, the child may not be able to participate in physical activities in school.
If the child does not complain of any symptoms, then treatment for flat feet is usually not needed. However, regular monitoring is necessary.
If the child experiences symptoms, then treatment is required. A doctor may recommend a major change in the child’s activity like temporarily reducing physical activity and avoiding prolonged standing or walking. An orthodontic device may be prescribed, which limits the abnormal flat arch shape. The device can also reduce symptoms in the foot and lower extremities. Modified shoes, such as high tops with padded soles, may be recommended. Special calf muscle stretching exercises may be taught by a physical therapist. In addition, medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Surgery is recommended only when noninvasive treatments do not bring any relief or if flat foot is caused by the fusion of two bones.