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Mitchell Wachtel D.P.M.

Pediatric Flatfoot: To Treat or Not to Treat?

If you are a parent, you know the importance of your children’s feet. They are used every day and are constantly developing to become the feet that will carry them through life. Flat feet are common in most children, especially when they are toddlers. Often they will grow out of it, but what happens if they don’t?

What is Flatfoot?

Taking Care of Children's Feet in Bradford, MAFlatfoot is a condition that can occur in both children and adults. When it happens to children it is known as “pediatric flatfoot”. It is when the arch in the foot is not present, either because it never developed or because it collapsed due to a trauma. When this condition is symptomatic, it can be accompanied by pain, discomfort, and the inability to do physical activities. It may also create cramping in the legs and ankles. You may find that it is difficult to find shoes that fit your child’s feet comfortably. Asymptomatic conditions display none of these issues. To find out if your child has flatfeet, you can simply do the “wet test.” Put their foot in a bucket of water and then have them stand on a piece of brown paper. If you can see the entire imprint of their foot with no narrowness in the middle, then they have flat feet.

When Should Flatfeet Be Treated?

It’s a very controversial topic to determine if or when children’s flat feet should be treated. There are two types of flatfeet: rigid and flexible. Flexible means that your child’s arch is still moveable when he or she walks or stands on their toes. Rigid means that the bones stay stiffly in position, during physical activity or at rest. Many children with flexible flatfeet will grow out of this condition by the time they reach mid-childhood. Rigid flatfoot is more likely to remain as such.

Remember that your child with flat feet may not always exhibit pain; sometimes they may just be unwilling to participate in physical activities. Podiatrists mostly agree that if the condition is symptomatic, some form of treatment should be administered so that your child is not in pain. However, treatment is considered on a case-by-case basis, and more invasive means, such as surgery, may or may not be needed.

Treatment Options

For many people it is enough to use conservative treatment options. One of the best ways to ease the pain caused by flatfoot is to use an orthotic device. It can help support the arch and create cushioning where needed. Physical therapy is another good option for providing pain relief. You may also need to make modifications to your child’s shoes and the activities in which they are involved. If running causes them too much pain they may need to forgo that in favor of swimming or cycling, until we determine whether their flat feet merit further treatment. We may also prescribe medication to help with their discomfort. In some extreme cases where nothing else is working it may become necessary to resort to surgery.

Getting Medical Help

If your child has flat feet and you have questions call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel, podiatrist North Andover, at (978) 794-8406 to schedule an appointment in one of our three Massachusetts office locations. We are here to help your whole family have comfortable and healthy feet.

Photo Credit: Lisa McDonald vie FreeDigitalPhotos.net