Getting the lowdown on flat feet

FROM TOTS TO TEENS

December 15, 1992|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Contributing Writers

Q: My 12-year-old has flat feet and often complains of foot pain. What kind of shoe would be best for her?

A: Most teen-agers with flat feet do not have true abnormalities of the foot. When examined, the feet are found to be of normal anatomy, although the arch on the inside of the foot is diminished or absent.

When your daughter stands on her toes, is the arch restored? Is the muscle tone in her legs normal? Do the various parts of the foot move freely? If so, the condition does not need "correction."

But, under these circumstances, pain may result from over-stretching of the ligaments. The goal of any treatment is to provide support for the foot. This can be accomplished by purchasing shoes that have a good arch support. If your $H daughter is having a fair amount of pain, she may need an orthotic device (an arch support molded to her foot that she can put in any shoe she wears.)

Before proceeding with this more specialized treatment, your daughter's feet should be carefully examined. Some infections in the foot, or some diseases of the nerves, muscles, bones or joints of the leg or foot can be causing the flat foot. In some cases, the foot lacks the flexibility one usually sees, and the treatment must correct the underlying problem. Occasionally, surgery is necessary.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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