My child has flat feet, can she still dance?

FirstPositionWe see quite a few dancers in the clinic who have been told they have ‘flat feet’, either from a health professional such as a GP or podiatrist as well as by their dance teacher. This can be concerning for parents and may leave the question of whether the child can continue dancing especially if they are wearing orthotics in their shoes daily, which of course cannot be worn when dancing.

Administering orthotics for children is very common place and in some instances is warranted when the child has a structurally flat foot. This may surprise some, but an actual structural flat foot is not that common and what we see mostly in the clinic are feet and legs which are weaker than what we would like. Weakness in the foot intrinsic muscles as well as weakness in the glutes and hips can lead to a foot that is simply not being held up appropriately and thus the arch can simply look/appear flat.

It’s important that we work out which category your child fits into as this will shape our treatment and recommendations however educating parents on why dancing may be just the perfect thing for the child is even more vital.

Kids spend a lot of time in stiff school shoes and wearing orthotics in those shoes on top of that can mean their feet become very rigid and weak over time. The main way we can overcome and fight back against this is to spend time strengthening our feet in the following ways:

  • Learn foot intrinsic muscle exercises such as toe doming, toe swapping and piano toes
  • Engage in single leg balance exercises which encourage the maintenance of the arch whilst performing them
  • Walking barefoot at home and in the backyard learning to engage in different terrains
  • Take up dancing! As well as other sports which will help with overall strength and fitness of the body.

Dancing usually requires either wearing jazz shoes, ballet flats or being bare footed. These dance shoes do not have the space for orthotics and thus can warrant some concern for parents if their child has to wear orthotics daily yet suddenly is unable to for their chosen sporting activity. So why would dance be a good option then? Taking up dance is a great opportunity for your child to start working on foot and leg strength and begin developing the muscles required to hold up and support the arch.

When assessing our dancers at Inspired Physio, a lot of focus is given to the foot, ankle and leg as we know that this area usually needs attention and most dancers will significantly benefit from a program that strengthens and improves awareness around the foot. In the children who have flat feet/weak arches we can give them the specific exercises to learn and incorporate into their dance training that will not only prevent further weakness but will actively strengthen the arch, ankle and hips. Dancing provides a great opportunity to develop stronger and more resilient feet and this can mean throwing away the orthotics!