Flat Feet In Children – What It Is and How To Fix

by Aculbertson


Flat Feet In Kids blog header

As a parent, there are always a million things on your mind: meals, milestones, memories, and much, much more.

Your child’s feet are probably pretty low on that list. But if you notice flat feet, that’s not something to ignore.


What Are Flat Feet?

As the name suggests, flat feet (also called pronation, flexible flat foot, and pes planus) are pretty easy to spot. Normally, feet have an arch. But for kids with flat feet, most or all of their foot touches the floor.

Although this seems like a foot problem, it actually begin in the heel. Your child’s calcaneus (heel bone) rotates inward. This causes the foot to collapse inside where the arch should be. So instead of body weight being distributed evenly, your child is walking on the inside part of the foot.

An example of flat feet

There’s a simple way to check. Have your little one stand barefoot, facing away from you. Take a picture from directly behind. If you can see a pinky toe and big toe, his or her feet are likely fine. If you can see a pinky toe, ring toe, but not big toe, your child is likely pronating.

Although untreated flat feet can cause problems, they’re not always a cause for alarm. As toddlers learn to stand and walk, flat feet are common. Your child is still developing. But if he or she has been walking for more than six months and you still see flat feet, keep an eye on them. What you want to look for are signs of what’s called excessive pronation:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Clumsiness
  • Development delays



What Causes Flat Feet In Children?

There’s more than one possible reason. And a big indicator comes from where he or she falls on the muscle tone spectrum:

Low Muscle Tone

For kids with low tone, the culprit is ligament laxity. This simply means the ligaments (connective tissue) are too stretchy. This allows movement beyond the normal range of motion. The heel bone rotates in, which collapses the arch.

High Muscle Tone

For kids with high tone, the Achilles tendon is too short, which pulls the foot inward.

What Problems Do Flat Feet Cause?

Although it may seem like just a foot problem, flat feet can cause a chain reaction up your child’s body that forces ankles, knees, and hips out of proper alignment. Other potential problems include:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle exhaustion/weakness
  • Improper walking pattern
  • Possible toe walking
  • Poor foot development

Flat feet in children can be especially problematic for those under seven years old. If your little one hasn’t reached that birthday yet, there’s a significant amount of cartilage in his or her feet. Similar to the soft spot on their head, it will eventually harden and become bone. But that means if your child isn’t walking correctly while those bones development, it can impact their shape and growth.


Why Aren’t Inserts Enough?

In theory, inserts or insoles should provide exactly what’s needed. They force the arch up.

But they fail to address the overall problem. Flat feet begin in the heel. By focusing only on the arch, inserts only treat a symptom. And due to that limitation, inserts DO NOT:

  • Straighten out the heel bone
  • Address the curve of the forefoot
  • Change the way your child walks

Inserts can also create dependence because they don’t fix the root cause. Kids who wear inserts typically become adults who wear inserts.

Picture child with flat feet using inserts.


How Do You Fix Flat Feet In Children? What Makes Surestep SMOs Special?

To truly fix the problem, you need to start at the heel. And that’s what makes Surestep SMOs unique.  They are made out of flexible plastic and use an innovative compression system. So instead of focusing on just one area, like the arch, the braces hug the entire foot. This moves them into proper alignment and allows for natural development.

Think of them as training wheels. When your child first learns to ride a bike, they rock back and forth. The training wheels provide stability and keep them from going too far. Your child still has to do the peddling. The training wheels simply allow your child to practice with a safety net.

Surestep SMOs are similar. Your child will still use his or her own muscles. This allows them to get stronger while in the proper alignment. With enough repetition and muscle memory, your child won’t need the braces forever. Typically, kids graduate after only three or four pairs of Surestep SMOs.

Surestep SMOs treat flat feet in children

Don’t let the ordering process confuse you: GET SURESTEP


What Should You Do?

Many people, doctors included, treat flat feet with a roll of the eyes. It’s not seen as a big deal. This often leads to a “wait and see” recommendation.

But trust your instincts. As a parent, you are your child’s greatest advocate. If you see developmental delays or if something just feels off, get the help your child needs.

Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric orthotist near you. Need help finding an orthotist in your area? Call Surestep at 877-462-0711.

Will SMOs help my child's development?