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Flatfoot in children: What it is and how to care for it

Last Modified: January 18, 2024

Diseases & Disorders, Family Medicine

flat feet

Flatfoot is a condition in which a person does not have any visible arch in the bottom of their foot when standing. All babies have flat feet, with arches developing between the ages of 3 and 5. However, if your child’s feet are flat after that time, your child may have inherited flat feet in one or both feet.

How can you care for your child who has flatfoot?

Flat feet aren’t a problem for most people, but some will experience pain. There are a few things you can do to give your child’s feet more support.

  • Have your child wear shoes with good arch support and lots of room in the toes.
  • Put heel padding (a heel cup) or inserts (orthotics) in your child's shoes. Orthotics are molded pieces of rubber, leather or other material that can help cushion and balance your child's feet.
  • Give anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) if your child's feet or legs hurt. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Try heat or massage on the area that is causing your child pain. Use a warm cloth or hot water bottle. Keep a cloth between the hot water bottle and your child's skin to avoid burns.
  • Try these exercises to stretch your child's feet and make them stronger, if your doctor says it is okay.
    • Stretch the calf muscles. Have your child stand about one foot from a wall and place the palms of both hands against the wall at chest level. Have your child step back with one foot. That leg should be straight at the knee, with both feet flat on the floor. Your child's feet should point at the wall or slightly toward the center of their body. Have your child bend the front leg at the knee and press the wall with both hands until they feel a gentle stretch in the back leg. Have your child hold this for at least 15 seconds, increasing to 30 seconds over time. Then have your child switch legs and repeat. Have your child do this 2-4 times a day.
    • Stretch the feet. Have your child sit on the floor or a mat with both legs stretched out in front of their body. Roll up a towel lengthwise and loop it around the ball of one foot. Have your child hold one end of the towel in each hand and gently pull the towel toward their body. Have your child hold this for at least 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot. Have your child do this 2-4 times a day.
    • Make the feet stronger. Place a towel on the floor. Have your child sit in a chair in front of the towel with both feet flat on the towel at one end. Your child should grip the towel with the toes of one foot while keeping the heel of that foot on the floor. (Your child should use the other foot to anchor the towel). Have your child curl their toes to pull the towel closer. Repeat with the other foot. Have your child do this 2- 4 times a day.

When to call your provider

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has pain in the feet or legs.
  • You want help to find orthotics to fit your child's feet.

To find a podiatry provider or learn more about conditions treated by PPG – Podiatry, visit our webpage.












Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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