In today’s part about flat feet we will focus on the three different ways how you can test at home whether your baby has correct shape of the foot. We will focus on prevention of formation of the flat foot and we will also talk about two methods of exercise, which you can use in case you find out that your child has a flat foot.
TEST IN THE BATHROOM
One of the easier tests is a test in the bathroom. The goal of this test is to gain the print of the foot. Therefore if your baby has wet feet, walk on a dry pavement and observe the print of its foot.
Evaluating the quality of the print is described lower.
If you would want a more precise print of the foot, then paint the foot of the child with a color. Ideal are watercolors, tempera paint intended for children, that are not harmful for children. Afterwards place the baby on a large paper, and let it walk over it. This test will limit the so called plantogram, which is normally and professionally used during an examination of the function of the feet in orthopedy.
TEST WITH MIRROR
The third option how to test the quality of the formed foot arches, you will need bigger mirror and any kind of glass surface, which is in a horizontal position at least 10 cm above the ground. Ideal will be for example coffee table in your living room. Place the child on the glass surface, and place a mirror below the glass. This type of test is the most precise, because you will see a clear picture of the foot and its supportive points. In this case your coffee table will simulate the so called pedobarograph, or also know as podoscope. Be careful however to avoid unpleasant injuries, take in account the weight of the person, and the bearing capacity of the glass surface.
EVALUATING THE TEST
If the child steps on the inner side of the foot and the print of the foot is more wide (without classical cut out on the inner side) than long (with classical cut out on the inner side in the middle), it is very likely that the foot will be flat. In such case we recommend to start exercising in form of proprioceptive stimulation. Children that are older can start with exercises which support the activity of the short muscles of the foot.
As we said already in the last article, the arch of the foot is forming up the third year of the life of the child. If the test shows a flat foot by your 2 year old child, you don’t have worry. The shape of the foot is still developing and the shape of the flat foot is therefore physiologically completely normal till the third year of life. Therefore it is pointless to evaluate the condition of the flat foot (pes planus) arches before the age of three. If the foot has sufficient amount of impulses for its healthy and natural development, the foot arches will develop by the age of three years.
Proprioceptive stimulation can be understood as a „stimulation of the foot with sufficient amount of impulses”. For a correct development of the child’s foot it is unconditionally necessary.
Among proprioceptive stimulation can be for example walking barefooted (alternatively in thin socks) on various materials. In your area you will surely find, cooler, smooth floating floor, cool pavement or warmer, soft carpet. In summer you can walk on the grass barefooted, small stones, sand, water, walk on a slippery or rough surface. Be careful for possible inconveniences such as getting stinged by insects or injuring the foot by a sharp object. Proprioceptive stimulation is definitely ideal also as a prevention against formation of flat foot by children.
Try to prevent the flat foot by your children.
You can spare your children of the pain and unpleasant feelings in the future (by standing long time on one spot, longer hikes), which are connected to the flat feet.
REHABILITATION OF THE FLAT FOOT
Physiotherapeutic methods are ideal for correction of the flat foot only if your child, who has a flat foot, is in age when it is able to cooperate and consciously control the gentle movements of its body. What exercise would we recommend then?
A) Activity of the small muscles of the foot can be by older children who are able to cooperate, supported by flexing the metatarsal bone of the big toe and pinky toe towards the heel bone.
- Exercising in practice: imagine the big toe and pinky toe riding on rails (in axis from two longitudinal arches) towards the heel. If the child does it correctly, you will see how the longitudinal arches are lifting up on both the sides of the big toe and pinky toe.
- Mistakes during the exercise: the child can’t during the exercise bend its toes. In such case the muscles that flex the toes would be active, instead of the deep smaller muscles supporting the arch.
B) Another exercise supporting the function of the muscles, whose goal is a correct position of the toes of the foot.
- Exercising in practice: imagine that you are moving your big toe to the side. From the beginning you can rub the inner side of the foot towards the inner heel. That way you will stimulate the muscles, that have to work. Help the toe to move to the side by your hand.
- This exercise is a little more demanding. The movement of the big toe can be compared to the movement of the thumb by the hand. Place your hand on the table, and you can easily move the thumb to the side. It is therefore same movement on the foot as it is on the hand, except that on the foot it is done in a smaller degree.
- The effects of regular exercising: if you will be able to perform this exercise, you can regularly repeat it and it can serve you as a prevention against formation of the bunion (hallux valgus).
In the past was a standard exercise for treating the flat foot grasping various objects from the ground by the toes of the foot.
In the 90’s were done researches which proved that this exercise is not very ideal, and that it may even harm the foot. It can lead to formation of the so called hammer toes, without the arch being supported. Lifting and grasping objects is performed by different muscles than those that are supposed to lift the arch of the foot against the gravitational force of the earth.
We wish you a lot of entertainment during the testing and stimulation of the feet of your children. We believe that this activity will be joyful enrichment of your day. Therefore if you decide to test the feet with paint and paper, you will find positive reaction by your children. The resulting print, where you can print also other parts of the body, as well as prints of other family members will be surely a nice memory of the pleasantly spent times.
- Healthy development of the child’s foot
- Do you know according to which criteria to choose shoes for your children?
Published in magazine Uzlíček no: 3/2007
Autor: Mgr. Iva Bílková, FYZIOklinika fyzioterapie Ltd, Prague, Czech Republic