The Development of Arches in a Toddler's Feet

If your toddler's cute, pudgy feet and toes leave a footprint as flat as pancake, you might be concerned about his flat feet. Rest assured -- 80 to 90 percent of toddlers normally have flat feet, according to the Seattle Children's Hospital. Most develop an arch eventually, although around 20 percent of adults have flat feet. Some flatfoot conditions are inherited, so take a look at your own footprints in the sand to see if your toddler's feet are just another example of heredity at work.

Why They're Flat

Kids have flat feet for two reasons, one of which is evident just by looking at them: their feet have fat between the bones, which makes them flatten when they stand.Toddlers are also fairly loosely strung, meaning that their tendons and ligaments, including the ones in the their feet, are still loose and flexible. That's why they can put themselves in positions that would send you to the chiropractor. When they put weight on their foot, the tendons don't hold the arch up yet. This condition, called flexible flatfoot, resolves in time.

When They Change

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Around age 2 or 3, you'll notice a change in your child's footprint as the arch begins to develop, according to MedlinePlus. Some kids have flat feet for even longer, but most develop arches sometime in their first decade. One way to tell if your kid's foot is developing normally is to have her stand on her toes. Look for the arch as she stands --does she have one? If so, you don't need to worry about her flat feet; she has flexible flatfoot and will most likely outgrow it over time.

When to Worry

Unless your toddler has pain in his foot when he walks, has an odd gait or is wearing out his shoes more on one side than the other, you don't need to cart him off to the foot doctor. Flatfoot is only a problem if it causes symptoms, in toddlers as well as adults -- something to remember if your child has inherited your flat feet. Sometimes a tight cord in the heel can cause flatfoot; this condition might respond to physical therapy and stretching, or could eventually require surgery if it causes symptoms. Abnormal fusion of bones in the back of the foot, a condition called tarsal coalition or rigid flatfoot, can also cause pain that needs medical evaluation.


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If your pediatrician takes a cursory look at your little flatfoot and says his feet are fine, you can put him in any type of shoe that fits your fancy. No matter what your grandmother says, -- whose generation put high white supportive shoes on all their children -- toddlers don't need supportive shoes, unless they have a rigid flat foot or pain in their feet. In that case, your doctor might scribble a prescription for corrective shoes and send you off to a specialty shoe store to be fitted by someone with training in foot problems or have a foot specialist take a look.