Third of children have flat feet, study finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am

More than 30 per cent of children in the city have flat feet, a survey has found.

Of 576 school children from six primary and secondary schools examined, 34 per cent had flat feet, the study, conducted by a private health specialist centre, found.

Flat feet is a condition in which a foot does not have a normal arch on the inner side when a person is standing. It may affect one or both feet.

Feet with a low arch or no arch are referred to as flat feet or fallen arches.

The year-long study, which began last July, also found that most children with flat feet were aged between four and eight. More than 50 per cent of the children with flat feet were under eight.

'Younger children tend to suffer from flat feet because of baby fat between their foot bones. The arch in their feet will be formed and clearer in shape as their feet grow,' the centre's chief physiotherapist, Ada Yu Wing-cheung, said.

She reminded parents to monitor the condition of their children's feet closely and to seek treatment as soon as possible, because the shape of feet could be best corrected before the age of six.

'It is important to solve the problem at an early stage, and symptoms differ depending on the severity of the condition. In severe cases patients may experience calf, knee, hip and back pain,' she said.

Parents should take children for a check-up if they complained about knee or back pain.

'Some parents think their children have psychological problems when they refuse to walk, or even accuse their kids of being lazy. Their children in fact suffer from flat feet.'

Flat feet can lead to other foot problems, such as outward tilting of the heels.

'Bad development of children's feet will also affect the growth of their spines, which will cause more health problems.'

High-top or special orthopaedic shoes, or a shoe insert, are helpful for reshaping flat feet.

Ms Yu said parents should buy tailor-made shoes or shoe inserts for children with flat feet, as ready-made shoes and inserts might not be helpful.

'Though there are many ready-made shoe inserts, it is better to tailor-make one. It is like wearing glasses for eyes with short-sightedness. Patients should have shoe inserts made according to the condition of the flat feet.'

Parents should also insist their children wear slippers at home to train the muscles in their feet.

Lo Wing-hang, eight, found out she had flat feet two years ago. 'I could only walk for 30 minutes in the past because my feet got tired very easily. But now I can walk for 1.5 hours after wearing some specially designed shoes,' she said.

Wing-hang discovered she suffered from flat feet when her mother went to buy shoes with her.

'When the sales assistants checked my feet, they told me that I had flat feet. Then I found out why my feet felt tired so easily.'