A Cochrane review of the evidence for non-surgical interventions for flexible pediatric flat feet

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2011 Mar;47(1):69-89.


The pediatric flat foot is a frequent presentation in clinical practice, a common concern to parents and continues to be debated within professional ranks. As an entity, it is confused by varied classifications, the notion of well-intended prevention and unsubstantiated, if common, treatment. The available prevalence estimates are all limited by variable sampling, assessment measures and age groups and hence result in disparate findings (0.6-77.9%). Consistently, flat foot has been found to normally reduce with age. The normal findings of flat foot versus children's age estimates that approximately 45% of preschool children, and 15% of older children (average age 10 years) have flat feet. Few flexible flat feet have been found to be symptomatic. Joint hypermobility and increased weight or obesity may increase flat foot prevalence, independently of age. Most attempts at classification of flat foot morphology include the arch, heel position and foot flexibility. Usual assessment methods are footprint measures, X-rays and visual (scaled) observations. There is no standardized framework from which to evaluate the pediatric flat foot. The pediatric flat foot is often unnecessarily treated, being ill-defined and of uncertain prognosis. Contemporary management of the pediatric flat foot is directed algorithmically within this review, according to pain, age, flexibility; considering gender, weight, and joint hypermobility. When foot orthoses are indicated, inexpensive generic appliances will usually suffice. Customised foot orthoses should be reserved for children with foot pain and arthritis, for unusual morphology, or unresponsive cases. Surgery is rarely indicated for pediatric flat foot (unless rigid) and only at the failure of thorough conservative management. The assessment of the pediatric flatfoot needs to be considered with reference to the epidemiological findings, where there is consensus that pediatric flexible flat foot reduces with age and that most children are asymptomatic. Globally, there is need for a standard by which the pediatric flat foot is assessed classified and managed. Until then, assessment should utilize the available evidence-based management model, the p-FFP Future research needs to evaluate the pediatric flat foot from representative samples, of healthy and known disease-group children prospectively, and using validated assessment instruments. The preliminary findings of the benefits of foot exercises, and discrete investigation into the effects of shoes and footwear use are also warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Flatfoot / epidemiology
  • Flatfoot / etiology
  • Flatfoot / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures* / instrumentation
  • Orthopedic Procedures* / methods
  • Orthopedic Procedures* / standards
  • Orthotic Devices / classification
  • Review Literature as Topic