Caring for the little growing feet and legs of kids, it brings a smile to our face every time. You see, we’re parents to young kids too (Justin, your Senior Podiatrist, is dad to two energetic boys!), so when it comes to treating little feet, we very much treat every child the same as we’d treat our own if they had the same problem.
When it comes to kids and orthotics, different clinics take different approaches. Some will happily prescribe orthotics to every child.
Others take a conservative approach, advising kids to wait until they’re older, something changes, or more symptoms begin.
For us at Sole Motion Podiatry, we follow pretty simple guidelines: if the evidence indicates that manipulating the position or alignment of the feet using orthotics can help, and it’s a genuine problem that is impacting the child’s daily life, we may prescribe orthotics. If it’s something that isn’t causing them any pain or discomfort, or interrupting their life, and most kids grow out of it (or it’s not a big concern to begin with), then we won’t prescribe orthotics.
More simply put, we just ask ourselves what we’d do for our kids given the knowledge and experience we have, and let you know what that is, combined with all the other options, so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
Often known as ‘insoles’ and ‘orthoses’, orthotics are devices that sit beneath the foot in the shoe to fulfil a particular function. Orthotics can perform a great range of functions, which is dictated by the way they are prescribed and the features they are created with. This allows them to help do everything from relieving pressure away from a painful area of the foot, to supporting the arch to facilitate healthy muscle function, to increasing the space between the bones and joints to relieve pressure on a nerve or tendon.
Whatever the concern is with your child’s feet, we may discuss orthotics with you if you answer yes to any of the following questions. Is their problem causing:
Answering yes to any of the questions above means that your child’s quality of life is likely being affected by their problem. In this case, orthotics may be part of a proactive approach to address the problem, even to things that may naturally resolve over time. This is because we want the best for your kids – and not to see them in pain or missing activities with their friends for longer than they have to.
If there is a problem or abnormality in your child’s lower limbs that isn’t affecting their quality of life, may resolve naturally, or is part of the normal development process, then we may not recommend orthotics. Sometimes, other treatment methods may also be a better alternative to orthotics.
We’ve given you a couple of examples below, but bear in mind – a problem has different severities, and can have different characteristics in every child. This is why we have no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for kids, and uniquely tailor their treatment to them.
In-toeing (pigeon-toeing) can occur as part of the normal development in kids. Their feet can change from in-toeing to out-toeing, before they ultimately straighten. Before the age of four years old, in-toeing may be a normal observation, and not an indication of an underlying problem. While some kids may trip or fall regularly due to the severity of their in-toeing, others will remain completely symptom-free as they grow. For those that are symptom-free, orthotics are not usually high on the list of solutions that we’d recommend (unless there are other factors at play). If in-toeing hasn’t resolved by the age of 6 or 7, however, orthotic therapy may be required.
We see parents that are concerned with their kids regularly walking on their toes. For young kids that are just learning to walk confidently, toe walking may be a natural exploration in their quest to find which walking style is most comfortable for them. This often does not require orthotics. Others may struggle to make heel contact due to a shortened Achilles tendon. In this case, orthotic treatment may still not be the best option as it may keep the Achilles in a shorter position. Instead, a stretching and strengthening program will likely be discussed.
A big reason for sharing this information with you is that over the years, we’ve met many parents who had been prescribed orthotics from other clinics, unhappy with the result and under the assumption that they “had to” and that there were no other alternatives.
We really wanted to set the record straight, and share that while yes there are times where orthotics are definitely the best treatment option, it is definitely not for every child and every problem. In our clinic, we care for children’s feet and legs without orthotics much more than we do with orthotics.
We’ll always give you all of the treatment options for your child, so you can be fully informed and happy with the plan going forward. Our priority is what is best for your little one, and it isn’t always orthotics.
We love helping children and families stay happy and active on their feet. If you’re worried about your children’s walking or they’re in pain, we’d love to help.