Flat Feet in Children: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Flat feet occur when a child’s feet lack an arch, making it so that the entire sole of the foot makes contact with the ground. This is a condition that can either be from childhood or can develop later in life for a variety of reasons.

Flat feet in babies and children are common around a certain age, but about 2 out of 10 children with flat feet never develop arches later in life. In fact, all babies have flat feet at first, with the arch developing around age 2 or 3, usually being fully formed by age 6.

Luckily, flat feet don’t always cause any pain or issues, and there are solutions to help if they do. If flat feet do cause problems for your child, treatment should be sought swiftly to prevent future complications.

Flat Feet in children

Signs and symptoms

There are two types of flat feet: symptomatic and asymptomatic. As the name suggests, symptomatic flat feet are accompanied by one or more symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the foot, arch, heel, or ankle
  • Difficulty and/or pain wearing shoes
  • Trouble moving the foot up and down/side to side
  • Ankle swelling
  • Achy feet after standing or periods of physical activity
  • Withdrawing from physically demanding activities
  • Leg cramps
  • Tight heel cords

Oftentimes, flat feet in children have no symptoms. Flat feet may be visible when a child is standing, but other than this, it’s common for there to be no pain or difficulty. If your child does experience any of these symptoms, consult a medical professional.

What Causes Flat Feet?

Flat feet can be caused a couple of ways, one being through genetics or due to underlying conditions. Some of these conditions include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.

Another possible cause of flat feet, which is fairly common, is baby fat in loose joint connections between a child’s foot bones. A rarer possibility is fused foot bones. Flat feet developing later in life can be due to previously mentioned health conditions, as well as obesity, broken bones, arthritis, and tendon injuries.

Contacting a Doctor

A medical professional should be contacted if you begin to notice any symptoms of flat feet or if your child’s flat feet are causing discomfort or complications. Always ask questions when you have concerns.

Diagnosing flat feet is usually a simple process. A physical examination is done, focusing on the appearance and movement of a child’s feet. Quite often, a doctor can identify flat feet from their appearance alone.

The doctor will look at the range of motion of the foot and ankle, watching the child walk, sit, and stand. They’ll also want to rule out any other possible causes of the symptoms and may examine the legs or up to the hip. In addition, a doctor may want to order other tests such as a CT scan, X-rays, MRIs, or an ultrasound.


There are two types of surgeries for flat feet, although most parents prefer trying other options first. These options are quite vast, and what may not help one may help another. These include:

  • Supportive shoes and/or arch support
  • Medication to alleviate pain or inflammation
  • Stretching and foot exercises
  • Physical therapy

A parent should speak with a professional to understand the best shoes, medication, and/or physical activity for a child with flat feet.

Get in touch with a trusted medical provider for treatment, advice, or any questions you may have about flat feet in children.