We have 26 bones, 33 joints and 19 muscles and tendons to hold up the structure of each foot. All these components have to work together harmoniously in order to allow our feet to move comfortably. Biomechanical problems of the legs and feet in combination with excessive physical stress on the body, injuries and ill-fitting footwear can interfere with the structure and function of our feet leading to pain and discomfort.
Young children generally have a pair of chubby feet with flat arches, as the boney structure of their feet are not fully developed. During the developmental process, the structure of the feet changes as the child grows. Unfortunately, some children develop painful flatfeet from having abnormally low arches. During physical activity, excessive inward rolling of the flatfoot causes arch and ankle pain leading to structural changes and joint damages. Children with painful flatfeet will benefit from treatment with custom made orthotics to address the biomechanical concerns and provide pain relief. Early treatment of biomechanical problems can assist healthy development and prevent complications.
In addition to good foot structure, the development of healthy gait is important. Generally, by age four, children should display “Heel to Toe” gait. Gait is a term to describe the way we walk. “Heel to Toe” gait is the typical way of walking in which the heel hits the ground first, followed by the outside border of the foot, then the ball of the foot and lastly the big toe. Children that display an odd way of walking may have an underlying biomechanical concern. In-toeing, constant tripping, difficulty in running and chronic knee and ankle pain can indicate biomechanical misalignment. Children with painful and unstable gait will need treatment to provide pain relief and support healthy gait development.
As children grow and participate in various sports, excessive physical activity and injuries can lead to chronic foot pain. Engaging in high impact sports with repetitive stresses on the body can overuse joints, muscles and tendons. Overuse injuries can worsen existing biomechanical problems leading to pain in the knees, ankles and heels. Footwear lacking in shock absorption and support can further exacerbate foot pain. Chronic pain in the legs and feet will need treatment to alleviate pain and prevent re-occurrence. A biomechanical assessment and gait analysis can help to assess the biomechanical concern of the legs and feet. Treatment can include use of custom-made orthotics, supportive footwear and stretching exercises. Use of orthotics in children can help to reduce pain, improve gait and provide support.
Since we use our feet each and every day, it is essential to take good care of our feet. If you notice your child reporting foot pain or displaying an unusual gait, you should seek medical attention to address the concerns early and find suitable treatment. Taking good care of our feet is vital for us to continue to walk comfortably as we go about our life.