So when do children need arch support?
Parents shouldn’t assume that their child’s flat feet aren’t a problem. If they see that their child, age six or older, still has flat feet, it’s a good idea to point this out to the child’s pediatrician. The doctor can then examine the foot to see if the arch is still developing, or if interventions are needed.
Parents should also be aware that kids should never complain about foot or leg pain. If they experience pain after a short period of exercise, it’s a good idea to investigate the situation with a doctor. Flat feet can be concerning if:
- The foot is stiff, not flexible
- No arch is visible when the child stands on tip toe
- The child complains of foot or leg pain, or gets tired easily when exercising or playing.
- There is a family history of flat feet causing problems.
So how do arch supports work?
Arch supports offer bracing to the middle area of the foot, allowing the foot to be more properly balanced between the front and back of the foot, as well as the inner and outer edges of the foot. With proper foot alignment, alignment is improved through the ankle, knee, and hip; hip alignment also influences spine and shoulder alignment. Having painful feet can throw off the entire body. In young kids, this can have profound effects on their still growing bones.
Parents should be aware that kids are notoriously unreliable about reporting pain, or about identifying what hurts. Instead of saying their feet or legs hurt, kids may just avoid play that involves running or exercising, instead focusing on activities that may are more comfortable. As doctors focus more and more on the effects of childhood obesity, maintaining foot health becomes more and more important.
For the youngest children, evidence shows that walking barefoot may be the healthiest way to develop a natural arch. If parents do put their kids in shoes, they should be soft and flexible. For older kids, if parents are concerned about flat feet, they should talk to their child’s doctor. Arch supports can help rebalance the foot, encourage the development of a strong arch, and keep the child from experiencing pain while the body’s alignment improves.