Aside from wearing orthotic shoes for children, proper first aid, and taking pain medication (when prescribed), is there no other treatment for flat feet in children? Well, there may not be a miracle cure for flat feet, but improving the strength and mobility of foot muscles and tendons can help lessen the symptoms associated with fallen arches or flat feet. And yes, there are physical therapy exercises that can help to make this happen.
Before everything else though, flat feet in children shouldn’t worry anyone as long as it’s not causing any pain, swelling, or difficulty in feet movement. Also, flat feet is normal up to around age 4 or 5. Unfortunately, others do experience these nagging symptoms because the arches of the feet are “fallen” and are not able to support body weight well. Thus, a podiatrist may prescribe comfortable orthotic shoes – the best shoes for flat feet, together with a couple of therapy exercises. Exercises good for flat feet are those that “stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, and strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilize your ankle and heel”. Here are some of them:
Heel Cord Stretching
The heel cord (or Achilles tendon) and the posterior calf muscles (posterior meaning further back in position) help stabilize the ankle and heel. Good orthotic shoes also help stabilise the ankles and heels with proper fitting heel counters. Nevertheless, properly stretching these tendons should help improve their mobility. Be warned though, overstretching is not good either as it can cause muscle tear.
How to do this exercise:
- Stand and face a wall. Stretch your arms in front of you and place your palms against the wall at eye level
- Step the first leg forward and place its toe against the wall. Bend that leg’s knee until you feel the stretch in your other leg, the one behind you
- Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times
- Do this exercise 3 to 4 times a day
Check out this heel cord stretching video for a demo.
Towel Curls (Toe Curls)
Towel curls are “toe flexing” exercises. It works on the muscles that support the arch of a child or adult’s foot.
How to do this exercise:
- Place a towel on the floor, preferably a floor with smooth surface
- Sit on a chair and place your feet on the towel with your heels directly under your knees
- Begin to gather the towel towards you by curling and uncurling your toes. Do this 10 times, scrunching the towel towards you and then 10 times pushing it away from you
Check out this video to see how it’s done: Towel Curls Video.
This can be as simple as standing on tiptoe to strengthen the calf muscles.
- Stand with your feet – shoulder width apart. Rest your hands on a bar or chair in front of you
- Rise to your toes while slowly raising your heels away from the floor. Keep knees straight and hold for about 6 seconds
- Slowly lower your heels back to the floor
- Try 8 to 12 repetitions several times a day
One can also try variations of this, such as by doing it on a step or elevated platform such as in this video: Heel Raises.
This is not to say that the child with flat feet should avoid using orthotic shoes or that wearing the best shoes for flat feet is no longer as important. Neither does this mean that he should walk barefoot even when in pain. It simply means that feeling the ground and being able to use feet muscles without barriers like toddler sandals or sneakers, help strengthen and develop a child’s feet muscles much the same way any body muscle improves when exercised. If your child’s foot condition permits him to, allow him to go barefoot – wherever it is appropriate and safe.
Bring It All Together
These exercises are simple and easy to do for both children and adults. However, be guided by a doctor or therapist before implementing them because each child’s feet condition is unique. Lastly, exercising a child’s feet will not necessarily reverse flat footedness because in most cases, it is irreversible. However, proper exercise combined with other efforts like using orthotic shoes, knowing when to rest one’s feet, and taking good care of them, are powerful when done together.
Choosing the right pair of orthotic shoes can greatly minimise tiredness and stress on feet muscles especially during long walks, while exercise can gradually strengthen feet muscles and increase feet mobility.
For best shoes for flat feet, First Walkers provides top quality and fashionable orthotic shoes for children like toddlers’ sandals, sneakers, and moccasins. Check our wide range of boys’ and girls’ collections in our website.