Foot deformities in children

Approximately 98% of all people are born with healthy feet, but only 40% of them have healthy feet when they grow up. Having a properly developed foot at one point does not mean having a properly developed foot forever, because at every moment of development the foot is sensitive. Feet develop at least until the age of 13, and sometimes even until the age of 15, and until the age of 13 the foot grows quite intensively. Therefore, as long as the foot develops and a stable relation of the structures is not achieved, the foot is subject to the development of deformations.

The occurrence of deformations can be influenced by:

  • sudden weight gain
  • possible injuries
  • longer immobilization due to illness when children move less
  • inadequate footwear

These are all elements that can lead to foot deformation. Parents often contact us because they have noticed a change in their child in a short period of a few months, such that the existing condition has worsened or the foot has changed, and they state, for example, that the child turns his feet inward while walking. Most often, this coincides with the time when the child suddenly increased his body weight, was sick or wore inadequate shoes. Lower arches and flat feet are most common on the feet.

Flat feet

Most children are born with flat feet (as many as 97%). This is due to the soft cushions that are located under the still undeveloped arch of the foot. The body made sure to protect that fragile arch as much as possible. In most cases, the appearance of flat feet in young children is normal and does not require treatment.

An increasing number of school-aged children have flat or lowered feet, moreover, flat feet is one of the most common deformities of the locomotor system of school-aged children. This is really alarming information if we take into account that these foot deformities are usually not inherited (although they can be) but are the result of insufficient movement, excess body weight or inadequate footwear. In children, the lowering of the foot begins so that the heel turns outward (pes valgus), and then the entire sole descends to the ground (pes planovalgus).

Orthopedists and pediatricians claim that feet develop until the child is three years old (even longer), so it is not a concern if your one-year-old has flat feet. By the third or fourth year, the arch is fully formed, and sometimes these loose ligaments cause a certain part of the foot to turn outwards, and the foot remains flat. If even after the age of 5-6 years, your child’s foot remains down, consult an orthopedist. In early childhood, it is important to take measures to encourage the proper development of children’s feet.

Flat and lowered feet are more common among children who live in cities, because the ground on which they tread is usually completely flat and hard. As a rule, children in rural areas move more and their feet tread on uneven ground, which is great for the proper development of the feet.

Signs that indicate flat feet in children:

  • If your child walks on the inside of the foot.
  • Foot pain – if your child complains of foot pain, there is a good chance that they are caused by flat or underdeveloped arches.
  • Back Pain – Poor foot control and flat feet can cause back pain. If your child complains of pain, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.
  • Pain in the heel – very often children complain of pain in the heel. Especially boys who practice football, handball or sports that involve constant contact of the feet (shoes) with a hard surface.
  • Changed position of the Achilles tendon – which is curved at the heel instead of going straight.
  • The shape of the footwear – on which the deformation, i.e. the wear of the heels and the edge of the footwear is visible, also shows the condition of the feet and the child’s gait.

Prevention

The appearance of flat feet most often occurs due to an increased load that the foot cannot accept, and this happens in critical periods of the child’s development. The first time this happens is when parents put a child who is not yet ready in an upright position with the aim of making him walk as soon as possible. One of the most common mistakes is insisting too early on the child’s first steps. Your child may seem strong enough to stand, but if he just doesn’t want to, don’t force him. It is important that the first steps are not forced by different aids such as walkers. The child only needs to decide when to take the first steps with or without support. Crawling, standing up and taking the first step do not necessarily need to be in shoes. It is preferable for the child to walk barefoot or in socks with a rubber base that prevents slipping during the first weeks of independent walking. In this way, the feet will become even stronger.

Physical activity will help your children stay healthy. Children who move more are much less likely to have problems with excess weight (which is one of the causes of flat feet). With regular movement, muscles and connective tissues also get stronger. One of the useful exercises is walking on your toes, on your heels and on the outside of your feet.

S.J.
03.08.2022.