Is it normal that my child’s feet are ‘flat’?

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Is it normal that my child’s feet are ‘flat’?

Who doesn’t love a pair of chubby little baby feet?  


Those squishy little toes just beg to be tickled and kissed.  


But as your child grows, there may come a time when you think that the arches in their foot aren’t quite as “high” as you think they should be.  


In the vast majority of cases, the child’s foot is in fact perfectly normal, and the perceived “flatness” is in fact a normal part of foot development.  


Today’s post is written to help give you an understanding of what is considered ‘normal’, and when you might like to get some professional advice.  


We’ve also written about Heel Pain in pre-teens here, and “growing pains” in children here.


When a child is born, the bones in their feet are not well formed.  They do not begin to take on more of their adult shape until the child is around two or three.  


The ligaments that support the arches of the foot also naturally have more ‘give’ than they do in older children and adults. 


Finally, the child’s muscular and nervous systems, which help give strength and support to the arches in the feet, are not yet properly developed.  


These factors combined mean that it is normal for a baby or toddler’s foot to have a more ‘flattened’ appearance, up until the age of four to five years old.    


The persistence of “flat feet” beyond this time may be eitherfunctional, or structural.  


Functional flat feet may be due to factors such as poor footwear, weakness in muscles of the leg and foot, joint restrictions hip, knee or foot, or a less than ideal walking pattern. 


Often (but not always), these children’s feet will look less “flat” when they’re not standing on them.  


Functional flattening may appear worse while your child is having a “growth spurt”, as there is added postural strain on the muscles and tendons of the area during this time.  


If you think your child’s feet may fall into this category, there are two simple exercises that can be helpful.  Both of them should be done in bare feet.  


  1.  The first is toe raises, where the child slowly raises themselves up onto their toes, and then slowly drops down again, 15 to 30 times in a row, each day.  This helps strengthen the muscles that help maintain the arch along the inside of the foot.
  2. The second exercise is to ask the child to walk on their heels for a few minutes a day.  This will help strengthen the muscles at the front of the legs, which also help to maintain the medial arch.


Structural flat feet are caused by deformities in the bones that make up the feet. 


This type of foot is usually less flexible than the functional type, and the “flatness” often persists, even when the child is not weightbearing.  


A structural flat foot is usually not diagnosed until the child is around 3 to 5 years old.  


There are a number of specialised treatment options available for this type of foot, and some of these will require orthoses or even surgery in the more severe cases.


Whatever the cause of apparent “flattening” of a child’s foot beyond the ages of four to five, it is a good idea to have it investigated if you’re concerned.  This is because the impacts of problems with the feet can be far reaching, and may contribute to knee and hip conditions.  


Our Osteopaths are well trained in recognising these patterns in feet, and well placed to help treat any associated problems in the ankles, knees or hips.  


If you have concerns about your child’s foot development, why not give us a call on (03) 9375 7714 or book online today, to see if we can help?