Flat Feet in Children: Early Detection and Intervention Strategies

Did you observe your child when they go barefoot at home and see whether they are walking on the inside of their feet? This could be a sign of flat feet. Check to see if they are sitting or standing when the arch forms. Please contact your physician if you have any concerns about development, pain, or mobility. Most children do very well and adjust to flat feet as needed with early detection and help if necessary.

Flat feet are common in infants and toddlers up to the age of 3-5 years, as their arches are still developing. Most children outgrow flat feet without treatment. Signs that your child may have flat feet include:

  • The inner side of their foot touches the floor when standing
  • Their feet turn outward when walking
  • Uneven shoe wear on the inner heel and sole

There are two types of flat feet in children – flexible flat feet and rigid flat feet.

  • With flexible flat feet, when the child is sitting, an arch can be seen. When standing, that arch flattens out as the child puts weight on their feet. This is normal in young children.
  • With rigid flat feet, the arch cannot be seen when sitting or standing. The foot remains flat and stiff, unable to form an arch. This type usually indicates an issue with the structure of the bones in the foot or ankle, such as a tarsal coalition. Rigid flat feet can cause pain and mobility issues and typically require treatment.

If your child is around age 5-6 and still has very flat feet or complains of foot pain or difficulty walking or running, it’s a good idea to have them evaluated by a podiatrist. They can determine if the flat feet are still flexible or if they have become more rigid.

For flexible flat feet, the podiatrist will likely take a “wait and see” approach. They may recommend inserts or supportive shoes. Rigid flat feet usually require custom orthotics or even surgery to improve arch support and alignment.

Intervention Strategies

Early intervention can prevent complications like arthritis or joint misalignment later in life.


Custom orthotics may be prescribed to provide arch support and help correct overpronation. Choose shoes with removable insoles when using orthotics. Avoid high impact activities until arches strengthen. Replace orthotics as your child’s feet grow.


Stretching exercises can help strengthen foot muscles and ligaments to develop the arch. Activities to try including:

  • Towel curl – Crumple a towel with toes and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times per foot.
  • Marble pick up – Place marbles on the floor and pick them up one by one with toes.
  • Calf stretch – Standing facing wall, place hands on wall and step back with one leg. Keeping both heels on the floor, leaning in toward the wall to feel stretch in calf. Hold 30 seconds and switch legs.

Simple foot exercises should be done in 10–15-minute intervals, 1-2 times per day. Engaging in regular physical activity like walking can also help develop arches over time. Check in with your pediatrician to evaluate progress. With early treatment, most children are able to improve their flat feet.

It’s common for babies and toddlers to have flat feet due to the soft, flexible nature of their bones, ligaments, and tendons as they develop. Most children will develop an arch by around age 5.

At home, keep an eye on your child walking around barefoot and notice if they seem to walk on the inside of their feet, which can indicate flat feet. See if the arch appears when they are sitting versus standing. If you have any concerns about development, pain, or mobility, don’t hesitate to speak with your pediatrician. With early detection and intervention if needed, most kids do very well and adapt to flat feet as needed.

When to See a doctor?

Consult your pediatrician if your child:

  • Is over the age of 5 and still has flat feet
  • Complains of foot, ankle, knee, or hip pain
  • Has difficulty walking or running
  • Has legs of uneven lengths
  • Has tightness in the calves or Achilles tendon

The pediatrician can evaluate if your child needs special shoe inserts (orthotics), exercises or physical therapy to help develop the arch.

Doral Health & Wellness employs Podiatrists with extensive education and expertise. Trauma to the tendons, muscles, and bones of the foot is quite common. It’s not a good idea to put off seeing a Foot Doctor Brooklyn until you’re in a lot of pain. Our address is 1797 Pitkin Avenue, New York, NY 11212. To make an appointment, please call +1-347-384-5690 or send an email toinfo@podiatristsbrooklyn.com.