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Flatfoot in Children: Care Instructions


A flatfoot means that the bottom of the foot does not have the usual arch. Most children are flat-footed until they are between the ages of 3 and 5, when their arch develops normally. If your child's feet are flat after that time, it may mean that your child has inherited flatfeet. Having an injury, being very overweight, or having a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes also can cause the arch to flatten. One or both of your child's feet may be flat.

Flatfoot usually is not a serious problem. But some people do have pain if they gain weight or stand a lot. Your child also can have pain when walking or running. Your child can do exercises and wear pads and roomy shoes to help support their feet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child wear shoes with good arch support and lots of room in the toes.
  • Put heel padding (called a heel cup) or inserts (called orthotics) in your child's shoes. Orthotics are moulded pieces of rubber, leather, or other material that can help cushion and balance your child's feet.
  • Try these exercises to stretch your child's feet and make them stronger, if your doctor says it is okay.
    • Stretch the calf muscles: Have your child stand about 30 centimetres (1 foot) from a wall and place the palms of both hands against the wall at chest level. Have your child step back with one foot. That leg should be straight at the knee, with both feet flat on the floor. Your child's feet should point at the wall or slightly toward the centre of their body. Have your child bend the front leg at the knee and press the wall with both hands until they feel a gentle stretch in the back leg. Have your child hold this for at least 15 seconds, increasing to 30 seconds over time. Then have your child switch legs and repeat. Have your child do this 2 to 4 times a day.
    • Stretch the feet: Have your child sit on the floor or a mat with both legs stretched out in front of their body. Roll up a towel lengthwise, and loop it around the ball of one foot. Have your child hold one end of the towel in each hand and gently pull the towel toward their body. Have your child hold this for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot. Have your child do this 2 to 4 times a day.
    • Make the feet stronger: Place a towel on the floor. Have your child sit in a chair in front of the towel with both feet flat on the towel at one end. Your child should grip the towel with the toes of one foot while keeping the heel of that foot on the floor. (Your child should use the other foot to anchor the towel). Have your child curl their toes to pull the towel closer. Repeat with the other foot. Have your child do this 2 to 4 times a day.
  • Give anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) if your child's feet or legs hurt. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Try heat or massage on the area that is causing your child pain. Use a warm cloth or hot water bottle. Put a thin cloth between the hot water bottle and your child's skin.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child has pain in the feet or legs.
  • You want help to find orthotics to fit your child's feet.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.