Children’s orthotics can be of great benefit to young feet. They can help reduce symptoms in children’s legs and feet as well as assisting with stability, gait and function. But what age is too young to start a child in orthotics?
The importance of barefoot walking
There is much debate between podiatrists and other health professionals as to when is the ideal age to start a child in orthotics. At Melbourne Podiatrists & Orthotics we have been dealing with children’s feet and orthotics for over 35 years and hence we feel our podiatrists are well qualified in this area. We choose to adopt a thorough but conservative approach when it comes to orthotics and children’s feet and we try to avoid using orthotics in children under 3 years of age. The main reason for this is during the early walking years it is vital for children’s feet to develop strength, proprioception and balance in the small intrinsic muscles. The best way to achieve this is with barefoot walking.
Orthotics function best with a heel to toe gait
The other reason why we avoid orthotics in children aged 3 or under is during the early years a child’s gait is very different to that of an adult. Children when they first start walking will stomp with a wide base of gait. It is not until age 3-4 when they start to develop the smooth heel to toe gait like that of an adult. Orthotics are designed to function when the foot is in stance phase or contacting the ground. The longer the foot is in stance phase the better orthotics work. Hence why orthotics function best when children have a heel to toe gait and an extended foot contact phase.
There will always be exceptions in some children’s feet
There will always be exceptions to the above rules and sometimes orthotics are essentially required in children aged under 3. This can be when a child is suffering symptoms (e.g growing pains) that orthotics can help resolve or when their feet are severely impacting normal function. Often in these cases the child will not be achieving their normal developmental milestones. For example a delay in walking due to low muscle tone or a severe hypermobile paediatric flat foot deformity. In these instances orthotics can be of great benefit.
Overall if your child is not suffering any symptoms and achieving their developmental milestones then chances are they should be able to function and cope without orthotics in those first few years whilst still giving their feet the chance to build up strength and balance through barefoot walking.
Get your child’s feet assessed regardless of the age
Remember no age is to young to have your child’s feet assessed and you should get them checked by one of our Melbourne podiatrists regardless of their age if you have any concerns. Our Melbourne podiatrists will advise you if orthotics can be of benefit to your child’s feet and will recommend the best age to start an orthotic therapy program.