Other Health Issues

Flat Foot

Flat foot is the loss of the medial longitudinal arch of foot.  Flat foot can be classified as physiological or pathological. 

  • Physiological flat feet is very common in Chinese children. It occurs only during weight bearing.  The arch restores when weight bearing is relieved.   Most of these children spontaneously develop a strong normal arch by the age of around ten.
  • Pathological flat foot is rigid and persists even when the child is not weight bearing.

Function of foot arch

Foot arch supports our body weight during standing and walking. Its three elements, tendons, muscles and bones, act together to reduce shock and maintain balance.

Flat foot in children

Most flat feet in children are physiological. It appears flat mainly for two reasons: (1) abundant subcutaneous fat, and (2) lax ligaments.  As the child gets older, the longitudinal arch develops spontaneously as the fat pad shrinks and the ligaments get taut. Most children with physiological flat feet do not have symptoms and have no functional limitations.

In general, flat foot does not require any treatment. Symptoms are only common in pathological flat feet such as pain and fatigue over their feet; wearing out the inner side of the heel more quickly; being prone to have corns over their feet.

Only pathological flat feet, and rarely symptomatic physiological flat feet, require the attention of Orthopaedic surgeons. 

Choosing the right shoes

Good shoes should be properly fitted, flexible and made of materials that breath. Other considerations include proper arch support, resistance to slip and shock-absorbing features. Symptoms associated with vigorous physical activities usually respond well to the use of shoes with good medial longitudinal arch support. There is insufficient medical evidence to show that wearing a corrective shoe or insert can change flat foot.

(Revised in June 2022)

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