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Flatfeet means there is no arch in the feet. Babies usually have flatfeet until they are 3-5 years old when arches develop. About 80 percent of children develop arches by age 10. Those who don't will not usually have pain or need treatment. There are two types of flatfeet, flexible and rigid.
Flexible flatfeet is the most common type, which always affects both feet. Muscles and joints function normally, and you can see an arch when standing on tiptoes or sitting. But there is no arch when standing.
Most children develop arches and outgrow flexible flatfeet without treatment. Those who don't develop an arch can still participate in activities such as running and sports.
There is usually no pain or discomfort, but some adolescents may have pain along the bottom of the foot. If pain continues, see a foot specialist at University of Maryland Orthopaedics.
Rigid flatfeet is more serious and often painful, with no arch in any position. It usually requires surgical treatment. Causes include a deformed ankle joint and abnormal fusion of two bones in the foot.
Inherited conditions, such as Down syndrome and Marfan syndrome, can also cause flatfeet.
When Your Child May Need Treatment
Flexible flatfeet don't usually need treatment. But if your child has pain or trouble walking, nonsurgical treatments may help. Your doctor may suggest:
- Heel-cord stretch for the Achilles tendon and calf muscles
- Shoe inserts (orthotics) to support the arch
- Physical therapy
Surgery Relieves Pain From Flatfeet
At University of Maryland Orthopaedics, we may recommend surgery for adolescents with persistent foot pain. Surgery forms an arch and lengthens foot tendons to relieve pain. We operate on one foot at a time. It takes about two months to recover from each surgery.