Kids feet come in all different shapes and sizes. High arched or flat as pancakes. This is no big deal. Kids in general do not need orthotics no matter what their feet look like. We have almost as many bones in our feet as we do in our hands, and they were designed to be just about as dexterous (think the double arm amputee who shoots a bow and arrow with their feet).
The problem comes when we take a young foot, strap it in a rigid shoe and walk around in a concrete jungle thereby never giving it the opportunity to properly develop good biomechanics. If a child’s feet are given the chance to functionally grow by walking barefoot on soft surfaces (grass and sand), they will mature as they should and cause very little problems for them throughout the rest of their life.⠀
You might recall as a child at little athletics no one wore shoes on athletics day and we all did okay.
Even if your child has some kind of foot or lower limb pain and you have a hunch their flat feet are the cause, it is a much better idea for them to come in, be assessed to make sure that their feet are the problem and then taught to use them better, so they don’t continue to be a problem as they develop into adulthood. If dysfunctional feet are causing pain, orthotics can be a quick fix however it becomes a bit of a slippery slope. Supporting a dysfunctional foot with an orthotic will often make it lazier, hence it becomes more dysfunctional and then a more supportive orthotic is required and… you get my drift.
There are times when we certainly would recommend temporary use of them. If your child has recently had a fracture in their foot and needs some off loading, a significant ankle sprain and other more serious injuries or congenital boney injuries or abnormalities. Our goal however as Physio’s is to get your child out of the orthotic as soon as possible and the orthotic would be a generic off the counter one so they can bin them in a few months (I can think of 2 kids in the last few years I felt needed a proper orthotic).
Of all the adult foot problems we see here one of the most common causes of chronic foot pain is from those patients who were put in rigid orthotics from an early age. You will certainly never see my kids in orthotics. Kids should spend plenty of time in bare feet such as in the back yard or at the park.
If you are concerned about your child’s feet bring them into have a chat and an assessment. Kid’s get better (most of the time) very quickly with a few exercises and a bit of rest.
– Nick & Melita