Flat Feet in Children
Flat feet are soooo maligned! People who have them often have an accompanying complex that something is "wrong" with them... in fact, for many years the Army wouldn't even take recruits "handicapped" with flat feet. "Flatfoots" of the world - take heart. Not only will the Army take you now :-), they actually have found that flat footed soldiers may suffer the fewest injuries due to an improved ability to absorb the impact of running. (Archives of American Medicine, 1993, July, 21:64). In actuality, the topic of flat feet is a bit more complex... whether flat, average or high arches are good/bad has a LOT more to do with the stiffness vs. flexibility of your joints than the actual height of your arch. Improving overall muscle tone and flexibility of your feet for any type of arch is the best you can do to improve your balance, posture and avoid injury. See the earlier post on "Exercises for your Feet" for some great examples.
When it comes to toddlers - flat feet should not be a concern. Nearly all toddlers are flat footed and this is considered quite normal at this age. (As someone who trys shoes on little feet all day, I can personally attest to this---!) The arch on the inside of the foot is something that develops naturally as the child grows. Modern podiatrists agree that the best shoes for children protects their feet from environmental hazards (nails, scorpions, sharp objects) yet is as close-to-barefoot in footwear function. This modern view is based on large scale anthropological studies which find almost a complete absence of foot problems in cultures where barefoot mode is most common. The fastest runners of the world today from Kenya spent their childhood without shoes. Walking barefoot theoretically gives the foot a wider range of motion and a better base for toning and strengthening foot muscles and building balance as compared to walking in stiffer, molded shoes.