Flatfoot (pes planus) is common in infants and children and often resolves by adolescence. Thus, flatfoot is described as physiologic because it is usually flexible, painless, and of no functional consequence. In rare instances, flatfoot can become painful or rigid, which may be a sign of underlying foot pathology, including arthritis or tarsal coalition. Despite its prevalence, there is no standard definition for pediatric flatfoot. Furthermore, there are no large, prospective studies that compare the natural history of idiopathic, flexible flat feet throughout development in response to various treatments. The available literature does not elucidate which patients are at risk for developing pain and disability as young adults. Current evidence suggests that it is safe and appropriate to simply observe an asymptomatic child with flat feet. Painful flexible flatfoot may benefit from orthopedic intervention, such as physical therapy, bracing, or even a surgical procedure. Orthotics, although generally unproven to alter the course of flexible flatfoot, may provide relief of pain when present. Surgical procedures include Achilles tendon lengthening, bone-cutting procedures that rearrange the alignment of the foot (osteotomies), fusion of joints (arthrodesis), or insertion of a silicone or metal cap into the sinus tarsi to establish a medial foot arch (arthroereisis). It is important for a general pediatrician to know when a referral to an orthopedic specialist is indicated and which treatments may be offered to the patient. Updated awareness of the current evidence regarding pediatric flatfoot helps the provider confidently and appropriately counsel patients and families.
Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.