Q: Why do my baby's feet look flat?

A: It's actually totally normal for your baby's feet to look flat. That's because babies are born with a pad of fat in the arch area, and their foot and leg muscles aren't developed enough to support their arches when they first begin to stand. In fact, the arch doesn't usually develop until age 2 to 3. But if flat feet run in your family (the condition is usually due to a bone abnormality or a tight Achilles tendon) your child's arch might never full appear. By the time your child is 4 or 5, your pediatrician should be able to tell for sure if he is truly flat-footed.

Children with flat feet should use good, supportive shoes on most days (though sandals and flip-flops are okay occasionally) and have arch supports in all their shoes and sneakers. Some mild cases of flat feet have even been corrected by regularly wearing arch supports. Although flat feet aren't a serious problem, they have been known to cause foot pain, leg cramps, bunions, and hammertoes over time. So if your pediatrician feels that your child's feet are severely flat, she may suggest you see a podiatrist. This foot specialist will be able to teach your child some daily stretching exercises to manage any pain he may have and, if necessary, create custom arch supports for your child's specific weight and level of activity.

Copright 2009 Meredith Corporation

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