There’s nothing like watching your children play. Whether they’re tearing it up around Roosevelt Park or imagining their own little world in your backyard, it’s enough to want to join in sometimes.
Here’s some easy advice: you should!
Taking time to play as a family is a spectacular opportunity for bonding—one that seems to be slowly vanishing more and more in our age. A good bout of activity is a benefit for everyone involved, kids and adults!
This quality time can also be a decent opportunity to get a gauge of your child’s gait and whether there might be any concerns that are worth checking out.
Let’s face it: kids are not always the most forthcoming with information. During playtime, though, they let that guard down and it’s easier to see if they are walking with toes inward or outward, or may have flat arches. And if they complain of foot pain or start shying away from activities they love for things that are less impactful on their heels, that could be a sign something is amiss.
Many times, gait abnormalities will be outgrown as your child develops. These are still conditions that should be monitored and checked by a professional, however. When abnormalities do not start to fade, and especially if pain becomes an issue, treatment may be necessary.
Sometimes, this treatment involves custom orthotics.
We know that orthotics tend to have a certain stigma to them. They’re for older people, right? Surely not for kids!
The truth, however, is that children can face similar needs as adults when it comes to their foot and ankle health. And when it comes to correction for an abnormal gait or support for the arch, forefoot, or heel, custom orthotics may be the best option.
Each child’s case is different, and it will take a full examination to determine whether orthotics should be considered.
As we noted above, symptoms of gait abnormalities, lack of arches, or pain will at least initially set orthotics on the table as a possibility. Additional signs might include walking only on the toes or heels, consistently stumbling or tripping over one’s own feet, or wanting to be carried frequently due to becoming tired easily.
Another factor that may influence a diagnosis is family history. Do you or anyone else in your family experience foot and ankle problems, especially of a structural variety? Your child might be predisposed to similar conditions merely by matter of genetics.
Now, even with many of the above elements present, orthotics are not immediately recommended in a great number of cases.
Many children will show abnormal walking patterns or have flat feet during their childhood and will outgrow them. All that is typically needed in these cases is regular check-ups to make sure the condition is improving over time. If it is staying static by a certain age milestone, or becoming worse, then intervention might be necessary.
In cases where some adjustment or added support may be necessary, a shoe that is designed more specifically for feet with those kinds of needs may suffice in place of an orthotic.
Long story short? Whether your child needs orthotics will depend on a number of factors, but we will not recommend them unless we determine they are a viable and necessary option.
Let’s get this out of the way first: custom orthotics are no longer the big, beige, clunky foot prisons you might have seen in the past.
Most orthotics now come in the form of inserts that can be placed in your shoes. You might have seen something similar in the store—and we might even recommend those sometimes for basic needs—but they will not provide the type of individualized control and support that custom orthotics can.
We have made custom orthotics for many children, so we’re well versed on techniques that make it a pleasant experience. We use plaster apparatus to create our molds. They’re effective and, honestly, kind of fun for kids to stick their feet in!
Once an orthotic is finished, we will check the fit with your child. There is a period of “breaking in” that is needed, and another appointment may be necessary to adjust the orthotic.
With a bit of initial commitment, an orthotic should become a natural fit in your child’s life. You might find that they might have additional energy, feel a bit happier, and be more active. For young patients who already are active, orthotics in their athletic footwear may provide less pain and more confidence during practice and play!
Whether your child has a problem that requires orthotics or a different method of treatment, it’s essential that foot and ankle conditions are discovered and addressed early in life.
The sooner a potential problem receives treatment during this developmental stage, the less likely it will be to cause chronic pains and problems later in life. And for those more nagging problems such as ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot, and plantar warts? We’re here for you and your child for those, too!
So enjoy your family playtime! And whenever anyone in your family needs help with a foot or ankle condition, give either our Warren office a call at (908) 222-8980, or our office in South Plainfield at (732) 356-3677.