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Bringing Relief to Your Child's Flat Feet

Pes planus or pes planovalgus, also known as flat foot, are both used to describe the same common condition that affects more than 30 percent of the population. However, it causes symptoms in only 1 in 10.

Flat foot is a good description to help you identify the condition in your child: The feet are flatter on the bottom, and the entire sole of the foot touches the floor when a child is standing. Babies are born like this, and for most children, arches in the feet develop with time.

For some, however, the feet remain flat. Most children who have flat foot have it in both feet and inherited the condition from a parent. However, some develop arches and then the feet flatten over time due to issues such as diabetes, obesity or injury.

'Mom, My Feet Hurt!'

If your child has flat foot, they might come to you with foot pain, particularly in the heel or arch area. That pain might increase when your child is more active. You also might notice ankle swelling.

Your pediatrician may be the one who makes the initial diagnosis, and if your child doesn't experience pain or other symptoms, no further testing or treatment is needed. However, children who have symptoms should be examined by accomplished specialists. That's where your experienced Shriners Children's physicians come in.

Shriners Children's Approach

When your child comes to see us, a trained pediatric orthopedic specialist will perform a complete medical history and physical exam. Your physician will ask your child to describe the pain – dull, sharp, sudden, burning – and whether any activities ease or worsen it.

Our team will analyze how your child walks, stands and runs. If needed, we will use the most advanced technology in our Motion Analysis Center to take a scientific look and get a clear understanding of any issues.

Depending on the severity of your child's case, your physician might order tests and bring in other members of our team to help diagnose and treat the problem. That may include:

Surgery is rarely needed for flat foot, but if your child has a related problem, such as a limb length discrepancy, torn tendon or extra bone, it could be necessary. Your physician at Shriners Children's is also a skilled surgeon and will work hard to help your child return to an active lifestyle as soon as is safely possible.

After-Care

The vast majority of children with flat feet go on to live normal, healthy lives. Some children may experience foot pain from time to time, but using arch supports, wearing supportive shoes, stretching and resting when needed typically will solve the problem.

Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.

Treatment Without Surgery

Your child will need treatment only if they have discomfort. Your Shriners Children's physician may recommend:

  • Stretching exercises: If your child's feet, ankles or legs hurt or get tired after activity or sports, your Shriners Children's physician may recommend stretching exercises for the heel cord, also called the Achilles tendon.
  • Shoe inserts: If discomfort continues, your physician may recommend shoe inserts. The master orthotists in our Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) department will work with your child to mold custom, perfectly fitted arch supports to relieve your child's foot pain and fatigue. This can extend the life of your child's shoes, which may otherwise wear unevenly.
  • Additional treatment: If your child has tight heel cords (Achilles tendons), your physician may recommend physical therapy. Our board certified physical therapists will treat your child in the same location as all your other Shriners Children's care.

Surgical Care at Shriners Children's

If your child has pain that won't go away and worsens with activity, your Shriners Children's physician may recommend surgery. A team of highly skilled, experienced medical professionals is ready to help your child.

Benefits of flat foot surgery

  • It provides a permanent solution to your child's flat feet.
  • There are relatively few risks.
  • Your child will not need ongoing treatment after healing from surgery.
  • Your child's freedom increases to do the things they enjoy, improving mental and physical well-being.

Your physician will talk with you and your child to discuss surgical options. The overall goal is to give your child the best chance at an active, fulfilling childhood.

I can run. I played sports. I can live the life I want to live. I am forever grateful for Shriners Children’s.
Elizabeth, St. Louis
orthotist cutting a template

Help to Even Things Out

In some situations, treatment for your child's flat feet may involve a special device called an orthotic to help improve their quality of life. A visit to one of our master Pediatric Orthotist and Prosthetic Services specialists is about more than measurements and mechanics. It is about sharing hopes and dreams with a trained professional who understands the needs of children, providing information that allows the technicians to return to the lab and design the perfect fit. Every day, these craftspeople help put our patients in the best position to reach for their dreams. Come learn more.

Innovative Treatments

View All Related Treatments

Bracing

Shriners Children's multidisciplinary team includes orthotists who create braces to meet the individual need of each child – whether to treat a complex condition or common injury.

Casting

Shriners Children's care team specializes in putting children at ease during casting, a common treatment for fractures.

Orthopedic Surgery

With their expertise in treating children from toddlers to teens, the pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Shriners Children’s understand the challenges of planning ahead for growing bones and bodies.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy at Shriners Children's helps children build confidence and strength, focusing on what is important to them and what they love to do in their daily lives.

Next Steps

Request an Appointment

Families and caregivers seeking treatment should start by contacting us for an appointment.

Log in to the Patient Portal

Parents and guardians of existing patients can email, request records, schedule appointments and more.

Refer a Patient

Physicians and healthcare providers can request appointments, start transfers or contact us with questions.