Many parents come in concerned that their child has flat feet. Early in life almost all babies have flat little chubby feet. if you look closely you can see the normal fat pad on the middle of the foot which overlies the arch of the foot. This fat pad will go away as your baby gets older.
As your child grows their foot goes through many changes and arch development continues until a child is about 8 years old. The muscles and ligaments of the arch of the foot mature and tighten, just as do other muscles in a child’s body.
About 14% of the population has flat-feet as adults and this condition often “runs in families”. Those with flat feet have normal variant in which the ligaments of the arch are lax and therefore the foot is flat when standing and weight bearing.
During the physical exam your doctor can show you that your child’s foot is developing an arch. There are several maneuvers to look at a child’s foot. If they are sitting on the exam table look at the foot as it is hanging (non weight bearing) and see if you see an arch. If you also push upward on the big toe you should be able to see the natural arch of your child’s foot. Then have them stand and the arch will flatten out again. Now have them stand on their tip-toes and you should see an arch again. Arches vary in size, like so many other things on different body types. There is not an “appropriate amount of arch” necessary.
It is rare for flat feet to cause any problems, especially in a younger child. In an older child that complains of pain, especially with running activities, you may buy over the counter arch supports. While arch supports and orthotics may provide comfort they do not stimulate the arch to grow and change.