How do I know if my child needs orthotics?

As a parent, seeing your child in any sort of pain can be tough. Especially if they can’t communicate exactly what’s wrong or
it’s a problem that’s not going away. This is often the case with issues relating to the feet – they can affect your
child’s everyday activity levels and cause pain just from walking. That’s where we come in – helping you to find the cause of
your child’s pain and solutions to try and help fix it. In this article, we’ll cover how children’s feet differ from
adults, signs to look out for, how orthotics can help and how to take the first steps. 

How do children’s feet differ from adults? 

The most obvious answer is that children’s feet are still growing and developing. Whilst going through this phase, the skeleton has
not fully developed and hardened. This means that abnormalities such as flat feet are common, as well as Sever’s disease, which is
pain at the heel growth plate. Without the hardened, tough skeleton and fully realised foot structure, children are more vulnerable to
experiencing pain. 

However, as most foot issues in children are growth-related, the pain felt and treatment for them is usually short. As a result, podiatrists
must review and assess treatment more regularly in children as a growth spurt could fix or worsen a particular issue. This is in contrast to
adults where orthotics might be prescribed for years on end as their foot issue is unlikely to change or shift. 

Signs your child might need orthotics 

Children, especially younger ones, are not always the best at clearly communicating how they’re feeling. So here are some behaviours
or things that your child might say that may indicate they need custom orthotics

Verbal cues 

  • Saying they have pain in their foot 
  • Saying they have pain up their legs 
  • Saying their toes hurt 
  • Complaining that it hurts to walk or run
  • Asking if they can avoid physical activity 

Non-verbal cues 

  • Limping 
  • Sitting down a lot more than usual 
  • Ducking out of seeing friends if it involves physical activity 
  • Being tearful and emotional 
  • Walking on their toes a lot 
  • Dragging feet 
  • Favouring walking on one leg more than the other
  • Tripping or falling frequently 


  • If there is a family history of flat feet, bow feet or orthotic issues 

How can orthotics help?

The two key issues that orthotics can help children with are flat feet and calcaneal apophysitis (or Sever’s disease). So, let’s
dive into both of them and explore how orthotics can help. 

Flat or ‘flexible’ feet 

This is most common in younger children and occurs when the foot arch has not fully developed. You’ll see that the arch disappears
when they stand up. Flat feet are usually something that children grow out of before age 5, but before that happens, they can cause some
pain. It feels like a cramping sensation in the legs and feet when your child walks, causing them to avoid standing up or walking. Orthotics
can help to emulate the arch and alleviate strain on the surrounding soft tissue muscles. With the correct orthotics, your child will not
only experience less pain, but they will also reduce the feeling of cramping and ensure that your child continues physical activity without

Sever’s Disease 

Sever’s Disease directly affects the heel but can cause pain in the ankle and up the leg too. The disease is caused by repetitive strain on
the growth plate of a not yet fully developed heel, which is commonly active in 8-14 year olds. It essentially reacts to this strain with
inflammation, causing cramping and pain in and around the heel. The pain will become even more pronounced with high impact movements such as
running or jumping. Orthotics can be part of the solution to help reduce pain, paired with strengthening exercises. In extreme cases, taking
a rest from high impact activities is the least desirable option as developing kids need to play and be active as it is an important part of
learning and skill development, and their overall health and well being.  Orthotics will help to support the heel throughout their
activity so they can recover quickly to remain active. The exercises complement the orthotics by strengthening the supporting soft tissue
thus lessening the impact on the heel to support your child running or jumping. 

Lateral Ankle Sprains

Lateral ankle sprains often occur when the foot suddenly rolls outwards or twists, forcing the ankle out of its normal position.  These
ligaments can only stretch so far before they tear. Rehabilitation of this condition does not usually involve orthotics, however, prevention
of this condition from occurring or becoming recurrent is where orthotics help because orthotics have been shown to improve proprioception
and balance. Proprioception is the information that is sent to our brain on where we are in space and time. Orthotics influence this by
increasing the amount of data sent to the brain so our brain can make a better decision on how to stabilise our foot when it is tested on
uneven surfaces or changing directly unexpectedly.  As the saying goes, prevention is better than a cure. 

Where to go for orthotics? 

Now you know how orthotics could help your child’s pain, what are the next steps? First off, you can visit your general practitioner
to get a referral for a podiatrist. Alternatively, you can seek assistance privately with a trusted podiatrist, just like us at The Feet
People, at our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinic. 

We hope you’ve found this blog useful, and it helped you to understand how to potentially cure your child’s foot pain.  For
more information from expert podiatrists, check out our other articles here.
Or, if you would like to come in for an appointment, book in

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