September and October are the months for back-to-school shopping. The usual suspects on the shopping list: clothes, school supplies and classroom appropriate shoes. As your child’s feet grow you may find yourself on a few shopping trips for shoes. During the developmental stages, you may also find that your child has a few foot and leg related issues such as flat feet, trouble balancing, knee pain, lower back pain and leg pain. At Absolute Rehab, we know that it’s not uncommon for children to need over-the-counter orthotics, or more advisably, custom orthotics, to help when these problems arise. So, how do you know if your child needs orthotics for pain?

Understanding How Children Grow

The first step in determining if your child needs orthotics for pain is taking into account their age. Before the age of 6, children are typically flat-footed as their feet are still developing muscles that form the arch structure that adults have. If your child is younger than 6 and is exhibiting signs of flat feet, give it time for their bodies to grow before you turn to custom orthotics.

After 6 years old, your child’s feet have the muscles and bones that control their movements. Their arch should also be forming strongly. By the age of 9, arches are typically strong and sturdy. Checking for a child’s foot arch is as simple as asking them to stand. You should be able to see a slight curve upwards in their foot as they are touching the floor. But what happens if the arch is barely off the floor or doesn’t exist at all?

It’s a strong sign that your child has what physiotherapists, chiropractors, and doctors call “Flat Feet”. This happens when the muscles and bones that form the arch structure, aren’t supportive enough, thus making the footrest flat.

Children With Flat Feet

There are a variety of causes for Flat Feet including disorders and diseases such as Muscular Dystrophy, juvenile arthritis, and irregularities in the nervous system. These are problems that should be diagnosed by a doctor to find the best methods of treatment before turning to orthotics and physiotherapy treatments. But in some cases, Flat Feet can happen from the way muscles, ligaments, and bones are connected and how a child uses them. Even obesity can cause children to be flat-footed depending on how weight is distributed on the lower half of the body. These are problems that can be helped through physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments and custom orthotics.

Over time, Flat Feet ultimately cause children pain, which, if undetected in childhood, can result in pain during adolescence and adulthood. Let’s take a look at some of the areas affected and four things to look out for:

1) General Pain in the Feet and Ankles

This is the most obvious one, but if your child is expressing that they have pain in their feet or ankles and lack an arch in their foot when standing or placing weight on their feet, it is a pretty good indication of Flat Feet. Your child may also say that their feet hurt when they are in shoes. Often, children who are flat-footed have difficulty wearing shoes comfortably because of the design of shoes and their lack of arches.

2) Ankles That Turn Too Far Inwards (Over Pronated Ankles)

When you walk, your ankle and foot muscles work together to keep you stable. When weight is placed on your heel, it pronates (unlocks) into place to withstand the weight and balance it out with the movement. If your child’s heel is over pronated, there is decreased stability in the ankle. This means that when they walk or run, their lower body isn’t absorbing the shockwaves from their movements. This can cause strain on their hips, back, legs, knees, and of course, their feet. Children who have overpronated ankles tend to be children who also have flat feet because of how their foot muscles and ligaments work.

3) A Pain Between Their Heel and Toes (Plantar Fasciitis) 

Children, who are athletic OR have pronated ankles along with Flat Feet, also have a higher likelihood of suffering from Plantar Fasciitis. This condition occurs when the muscle that extends between the heel and the toes is strained with moving, often due to a lack of arches. If your child is noticing a pulling pain between the back of their heel and their toes, it can be an indication of Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis simultaneously occurring. For athletic children, it is important not only to stretch out these muscles but to also address the underlying problem of foot support.

4) Difficulty Walking or Refraining From Activities

Children are probably the most active people on this planet, so if your child is having difficulty walking or if they choose to stay away from activities that involve walking and running, it may be because of their Flat Feet. They may let you know that their feet or ankles hurt after walking around at school, going to dance classes or sports. Be sure to rule out any significant injuries before looking at Flat Feet as a cause of pain.

Getting Custom Orthotics for Pain

If your child exhibits these signs and a doctor has ruled out other underlying causes, it is important to address their Flat Feet. Something we suggest at Absolute Rehab is child-sized orthotics for pain relief and to help with a lack of arch. Orthotics are small pieces of rubber, plastic or foam that can be added to a shoe to create a certain position and cushion for your feet. Children who have Flat Feet and any of the symptoms and pain-related, can benefit from Orthotics to reduce pain and to help retrain their muscle movements.

For children, we may recommend starting off with over-the-counter Orthotic solutions that are designed for smaller feet. This is more cost-effective when you consider how much your child’s foot may grow. For children closer to their teenage years, we may recommend custom orthotics for pain because it a more valuable investment as their feet are less likely to grow significantly. With custom orthotics, we are able to individualize the orthotics to match your child’s needs, resulting in better results than a one-size-fits-all solution. This is especially important for very active children who run the risk of injury and further pain if their feet are not properly supported.  In addition to custom orthotics, our practitioners may recommend physiotherapy to help stretch out the muscles that are affected by a lack of arch.

If your child is exhibiting signs of Flat Feet and you think they may need orthotics, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Absolute Rehab Centre. As a leader in Waterloo rehabilitation services, we aim to help get our patients back into the best form possible. It’s difficult to ignore foot pain at any age, but especially in young children who are on their feet and quite active for a good portion of their day.

Parents…if you think YOU may have Flat Feet, now’s a great time to take a look and find out! Children who are flat-footed typically have parents who have Flat Feet as well. Why not book yourself and your child an appointment to speak with our practitioners about custom orthotics and your feet!