Parents of young children often ask me if they should bring their child for a pedorthic assessment. Here’s what I advise. If their child is experiencing pain or is having difficulty walking, running or playing they should book a consultation with a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. However, if their child’s feet appear flat but they don’t have any pain and are a normal active child a pedorthic consultation is not necessary.
Young children have more flexible, wider, flatter feet until about age 6-8 when their feet start to develop the arched structure they will have for most of their adult life. Although this more flexible foot type is normal for children, some children’s feet may overpronate (roll inwards) more severely, which may lead to pain in their feet and lower legs. Children who are experiencing these pains should be assessed by a Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
Depending on the type of pain or dysfunction your child is experiencing your Pedorthist may recommend a custom foot orthotic. To encourage normal foot function and growth, paediatric foot orthotics are designed to contain and guide the motion of the child’s foot joints as much as possible. As children grow at different rates, orthotics may last a few years, while during growth spurts they may need to be changed every six months. As a rule of thumb, Pedorthists recommend re-casting orthotics when a child has grown two shoe sizes, or if the orthotic starts to become uncomfortable. When the foot grows, the orthotic will start to become too narrow and too short for the foot, causing pain, rather than correcting it.
Sports are excellent for children, but sports injuries can happen at all ages. Sports can place excess strain on the muscles and joints of the feet and legs, and as children are growing their bodies are particularly sensitive to these stresses. Supportive footwear that is suitable for your child’s sport is the best way to prevent sports injuries in children. However, children whose biomechanics make them susceptible to the increased stresses may also require custom foot orthotics. If your child suffers from recurring sporting injuries book a consultation with a Canadian Certified Pedorthist to see if a custom foot orthotic will help.
Parents should keep an eye on the development of their child’s feet and contact a Canadian Certified Pedorthist if their child displays signs of pain or becomes reluctant to participate in active play. Generally, young children’s feet are best left to grow and develop on their own. To give your child’s feet the best possible start, ensure he/she wears properly fitted, supportive shoes with a proper flex-point at the ball of the foot at all times. Never buy shoes that are too long for your child to “grow into” and save the flip flops and flimsy shoes for special occasions only.
By Alex Raynor, C. Ped (C), Burnaby, BC