As a podiatrist, one of the most common things I hear from concerned parents is “I think my child has flat feet, do they need insoles?”.
Unfortunately for everybody there is no straight forward answer to this question. However, there are a few facts and a little guidance that I think it is very important for everyone to be aware of, which may make your decision on whether to seek professional advice a little easier.
Firstly, during normal development and growth of a childs skeleton all children up until around the age of 6 years old will appear to have flat feet. This is partially due to the angles of the bones in the leg and foot and how they move, and it is also due to the fact that children tend to have a little fat pad in the arch of their foot giving the appearance of a flat foot. The child should grow out of this and the foot start to appear more normal and adult after age 6.
Secondly, there is actually no strong scientific evidence that a flat feet will cause problems in later life. Most of the african elite marathon runners have what would be classed as flat feet. So flat feet are of very poor predictive value for future injury.
This said, if your childs feet are so flat that the outside edge is off the floor, or they are complaining of pain, discomfort or aching in the feet or legs, or their toes point too far out (duck feet), or too far in (pigeon toes) then they may need someone to have a look at them. Symptoms do not just include pain, any thing that impairs your childs activity to run, jump, play and enjoy life as a child can be counted as a symptom. Also, family history is very important. If you or your spouse had problems as a child or young adult, there is a chance that your child could inherit the anatomy responsible for this injury and be themselves at increased risk of similar injury.
Lastly, there are certain unscrupulous types offering insoles from stalls in malls in various places around Singapore. These companies offer a 18 or 24 month “flat foot correction plan”. They claim that their insoles will improve your childs foot structure and at the end of this timely and costly procedue your child will have a “normal” foot. This is unfortunately untrue. However, if we look back to earlier in this article, you will remember that up until the age of 6 years old every child has a flat footed appearance. If you were to give a child an insole at the age of 5, 18 months later I would expect that child to have developed an arch. This would be as part of their normal development though, and it had nothing to do with the insole.
I more than happy to answer and questions, comments and queries you may have, on all aspects of foot injury (children and adults) and podiatry in genereal. Please feel free to contact me on email@example.com.