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Flat Feet: Why Kids Should Go Barefoot This Summer

A flexible, flat foot is considered a part of typical development until a child is 6-years-old. Most infants are born with a flexible, flat foot, and as they learn to walk, their medial plantar arch begins to develop. This arch should be fully developed by the time your child is 6-years-old.

Although it is considered within the normal range of development for a foot to be flat from birth to age 6, many parents are still concerned that the flat foot will cause problems for their child. Unless your child is saying their flat feet are painful, there is currently no evidence that supports any type of physical therapy or orthotic intervention before a child turns 6. The best way to help your child develop the medial plantar arch is to encourage walking in safe environments with bare feet. This allows the foot muscles to respond to the different surfaces the child is walking on and help develop the arch.

If flat feet persist after age 6, consider the following:

  • Children who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of flat foot deformity (BMI >85th percentile).
  • Children who constantly wear shoes have an increased risk of flat foot deformity.
  • There is an increased prevalence of flat feet in boys versus girls.
  • Some children with a tight Achilles tendon may have flat feet.

If your child at any age complains of painful flat feet, there might be an underlying problem that should be evaluated by your pediatrician or a physical therapist. Your pediatrician or physical therapist may refer your child to a specialist to explore options on how to help correct your child’s flat feet and eliminate pain.

If your child is older than six or complaining of pain in their feet, it is also possible to have a physical therapist evaluate your child’s feet to determine if they are a good candidate for orthotic intervention. Your child may be measured for orthosis by your physical therapist or referred to an orthotist to be fitted for custom orthosis.

Ultimately, if you are concerned about your child’s feet, let your pediatrician know, but remember: flexible flat feet are a normal part of development until your child is 6-years-old.

Jessica Brock
Jessica Brock, PT, DPT, PCS is a developmental pediatric physical therapist in the outpatient physical therapy department. She completed a post-doctoral pediatric residency program at The Ohio State University and she is a board-certified pediatric clinical specialist. She works in the outpatient clinic serving patients with a variety of diagnoses. She is also a physical therapist in the Neonatology Follow Up Clinic where she completes developmental assessments on infants and toddlers.

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