When most people think of orthotics, they envision a senior with existing foot problems or an injured athlete. While seniors and athletes benefit from orthotics, they are not the only people who can benefit from them. Patients of all ages can benefit from custom orthotics to support their arch, treat various foot conditions, combat general foot pain, and prevent future injuries. Custom orthotics benefit children in particular, acting as a sturdy and supportive foundation for their developing feet. Purchasing orthotics for your children is one of the best investments you can make to protect their feet from childhood to adulthood. The big question is, what are the best orthotics for your children?
When Should Kids Get Orthotics?
If you think your child has foot problems, getting them evaluated as soon as possible is critical. After all, the human foot grows at a faster rate than the rest of the body! Waiting a few weeks, months, or even years can result in more complicated and severe foot problems for children. Children with foot deformities (even minor ones) require early intervention to avoid foot problems becoming permanent and negatively impacting biomechanics for life.
But when is it too early? Most children develop arches as they grow, and the legs change dramatically in the early years. To achieve an optimal gait, the lower legs will gradually rotate to align the feet with the knees. Having said that, ordering kids orthotics when your child is learning to walk would be ineffective.
There is no need to be concerned if your child is under the age of three. Many of the concerns about a child’s walk (flat feet, duck feet, inward turning feet, walking on tiptoes) usually resolve themselves before the child reaches the age of three, as the child’s muscles develop, and the foot structures become fixed. As a result, orthotics is rarely recommended for children younger than this age. If necessary, a minor shoe adjustment or exercises can be recommended.
Foot orthotics function as a guide, assisting children in their development. They guide the feet through all stages of development, assisting in the correction of alignment, posture, and balance issues, as well as reducing muscle fatigue. But how can you tell if your child requires orthotics? Here are some indicators that a consultation is necessary.
Orthotics can help any child who has one of the following symptoms:
- An abnormal gait and shoe wear
- Misalignment of the plantar fascia (flat or high arches)
- Excessive shoe wear and tear
- Falling frequently
- Running as fast as other children their age is difficult.
- Feet, legs, knees, or back pain
- Early tiredness when participating in physical activities
- Deformity of the feet (bunions, early signs of hammer toes)
- Development of Calluses and bumps (hard skin)
- Misaligned knees or ankles
The purpose of orthotic therapy or orthopaedic shoe is to gently relocate the foot into a better biomechanical position. Improved foot structure leads to better foot function, and symptoms normally improve or disappear as a result. In most circumstances, we advise against using an orthotic on a toddler’s foot to avoid interfering with normal development. However, if some symptoms persist or worsen, we may need to intervene sooner than usual to prevent further developmental damage and to rectify a mechanical issue before it takes root.
Wearing custom foot orthotics or proper footwear is an effective solution in the vast majority of cases. Orthotics allow children to develop fully and painlessly by stabilizing and realigning their lower limbs. Because small feet grow quickly, children’s orthotics should be replaced within 18 to 24 months.
If your child is particularly active or plays in sports, it is very vital to have them fitted with the appropriate orthotics as soon as possible. Orthotics can aid with gait and mobility issues. Furthermore, discomfort or degenerative changes in the spine, hips, and knees may begin earlier in active youngsters than in sedentary children.
If you are experiencing foot problems and require assistance, contact your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist. They will educate you on pediatric orthotics and provide support as needed.
Written by Reza Sands