Paediatric Flat Foot


The Dark Side (Adult Feet!)

Paediatric flat foot

Paediatric flexible flat foot: how are we measuring it and are we getting it right? A systematic review

Background: Flexible flat foot is a normal observation in typically developing children, however, some children with flat feet present with pain and impaired lower limb function. The challenge for health professionals is to identify when foot posture is outside of expected findings and may warrant intervention. Diagnoses of flexible flat foot is often based on radiographic or clinical measures, yet the validity and reliability of these measures for a paediatric population is not clearly understood. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate how paediatric foot posture is defined and measured within the literature, and if the psychometric properties of these measures support any given diagnoses.

Methods: Electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, Cochrane, AMED, SportDiscus, PsycINFO, and Web of Science) were systematically searched in January 2017 for empirical studies where participants had diagnosed flexible flat foot and were aged 18 years or younger. Outcomes of interest were the foot posture measures and definitions used. Further articles were sought where cited in relation to the psychometric properties of the measures used.

Results: Of the 1101 unique records identified by the searches, 27 studies met the inclusion criteria involving 20 foot posture measures and 40 definitions of paediatric flexible flat foot. A further 18 citations were sought in relation to the psychometric properties of these measures. Three measures were deemed valid and reliable, the FPI-6 > + 6 for children aged three to 15 years, a Staheli arch index of > 1.07 for children aged three to six and ≥ 1.28 for children six to nine, and a Chippaux-Smirak index of > 62.7% in three to seven year olds, > 59% in six to nine year olds and ≥ 40% for children aged nine to 16 years. No further measures were found to be valid for the paediatric population.

Conclusion: No universally accepted criteria for diagnosing paediatric flat foot was found within existing literature, and psychometric data for foot posture measures and definitions used was limited. The outcomes of this review indicate that the FPI – 6, Staheli arch index or Chippaux-Smirak index should be the preferred method of paediatric foot posture measurement in future research.


When, why and how foot orthoses (FOs) should be prescribed for children with flexible pes planus: a Delphi survey of podiatrists

Background: Flexible pes planus (flat feet) in children is a common reason parents and caregivers seek health professionals consult and a frequent reason podiatrists prescribe foot orthoses. Yet no universal agreement exists on the diagnosis of this condition, or when and how foot orthoses should be prescribed. The aim of this study was to garner consensus and agreement among podiatrists on the use of FOs for paediatric flexible pes planus.

Methods: A three round Delphi consensus survey was undertaken with 15 podiatry experts from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Round One gathered consensus on the diagnosis and intervention into paediatric pes planus with specific questions on types of FOs and prescription variables used. Round Two and Three were based on answers from Round One and gathered agreement (rationale for choices) on a five point Likert scale. 70% of respondents had to agree to a statement for it to be accepted as consensus or agreement.

Results: Consensus and agreement was achieved for 83 statements directing the diagnosis of pes planus (using FPI-6 and/or rearfoot measures), common signs and symptoms (e.g., pain, fatigue, abnormal gait and other functional concerns) that direct when to intervene into paediatric flexible pes planus. Prefabricated orthoses were the preferred intervention where adequate control is gained with their use. When customised orthoses are prescribed, a vertical [heel] cast pour (71.4%) and minimal arch fill (76.9%) are the prescription variables of choice, plus or minus additional variables (i.e., medial heel (Kirby) skive, the use of a University of California Biomechanical Laboratory device or a medial flange) dependent on level of disorder and plane of excessive motion.

Conclusions: This study identified consensus and agreement on a series of diagnosis methods and interventions for the paediatric flexible pes planus. A clinical protocol was developed from the resultant consensus statements which provides clinicians with a series of evidenced-informed statements to better guide them on when, how and why FOs are used specific to this population.


The effectiveness of non-surgical intervention (Foot Orthoses) for paediatric flexible pes planus: A systematic review: Update

Background: Flexible pes planus (flat feet) in children is a common presenting condition in clinical practice due to concerns amongst parents and caregivers. While Foot Orthoses (FOs) are a popular intervention, their effectiveness remains unclear. Thus, the aim of this systematic review was to update the current evidence base for the effectiveness of FOs for paediatric flexible pes planus.

Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases (Cochrane, Medline, AMED, EMBASE, CINHAL, SportDiscus, Scopus and PEDro) was conducted from January 2011 to July 2017. Studies of children (0–18 years) diagnosed with flexible pes planus and intervention to be any type of Foot Orthoses (FOs) were included. This review was conducted and reported in line with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. McMaster critical review form for quantitative studies, was used to assess the methodological quality of the included studies. Given the heterogeneity of the included studies, a descriptive synthesis of the included studies was undertaken.

Results: Out of 606 articles identified, 11 studies (three RCTs; two case-controls; five case-series and one single case study) met the inclusion criteria. A diverse range of pre-fabricated and customised FOs were utilised and effectiveness measured through a plethora of outcomes. Summarised findings from the heterogeneous evidence base indicated that FOs may have a positive impact across a range of outcomes including pain, foot posture, gait, function and structural and kinetic measures. Despite these consistent positive outcomes reported in several studies, the current evidence base lacks clarity and uniformity in terms of diagnostic criteria, interventions delivered and outcomes measured for paediatric flexible pes planus.

Conclusion: There continues to remain uncertainty on the effectiveness of FOs for paediatric flexible pes planus. Despite a number of methodological limitations, FOs show potential as a treatment method for children with flexible pes planus.


The typically developing paediatric foot: how flat should it be? A systematic review

Background: All typically developing children are born with flexible flat feet, progressively developing a medial longitudinal arch during the first decade of their lives. Whilst the child’s foot is expected to be flat, there is currently no consensus as to how flat this foot should be. Furthermore, whilst feet are observed to decrease in flatness with increasing age, it is not known how flat they should be at each age increment. The objective of this systematic review is to define the postural characteristics of the ‘typically’ developing paediatric foot.

Methods: The PRISMA protocol was applied to compare all data currently published describing the typical development of the paediatric foot. The Epidemiological Appraisal Instrument (EAI) was used to assess the risk of bias of the included studies.

Results: Thirty four epidemiological papers pertaining to the development of the paediatric foot were graphically compared. Sixteen different foot posture assessments were identified of which footprint based measures were the most reported outcome.

Conclusion: Firstly, the use of the term normal in relation to foot posture is misleading in the categorisation of the paediatric foot, as indeed a flat foot posture is a normal finding at specific ages. Secondly, the foot posture of the developing child is indeed age dependent and has been shown to change over time. Thirdly, no firm conclusion could be reached as to which age the foot posture of children ceases to develop further, as no two foot measures are comparable, therefore future research needs to consider the development of consensus recommendations as to the measurement of the paediatric foot, using valid and reliable assessment tools



The identification and appraisal of assessment tools used to evaluate metatarsus adductus: a systematic review of their measurement properties

Background: Metatarsus adductus is the most common congenital foot deformity in newborns. It involves adduction of the metatarsals at the Lisfranc joint. A systematic literature review was conducted to investigate the following question: What tools are used to identify and quantify metatarsus adductus and how reliable, valid and responsive are they?

Methods: The following electronic databases were searched for studies describing tools for the identification and quantification of metatarsus adductus in adults and children published from inception to June 2016: Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus, Web of Science and AMED. Two researchers initially searched all articles by screening titles and abstracts. If there was any doubt as to an article’s eligibility, the full text paper was retrieved. Reference lists and citations of all retained studies were examined in an attempt to locate further studies. Articles were excluded if they were not in English or described other congenital foot conditions that did not include metatarsus adductus. Studies included in the review reporting measurement properties of measurement tools were critically appraised using the Consensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement Instruments (COSMIN) critical appraisal tool.

Results: There were 282 articles screened by title and abstract and 28 articles screened from full text. Fifteen articles were included and nine had data that were extractable for appraisal using the COSMIN critical appraisal tool. Techniques to measure metatarsus adductus included the heel bisector method, photocopies, ultrasound, footprints, dynamic foot pressure and radiographs. There was a paucity of quality data reporting the reliability, validity or responsiveness for measuring metatarsus adductus. Several radiographic angles showed good reliability (intraclass correlation (ICC) – 0.84, 0.97) in adults during pre-operative planning.

Conclusion: There have been multiple assessment techniques proposed for quantification of metatarsus adductus, but there is paucity of reliability, validity or responsiveness to measurement data about these techniques, especially in relation to the paediatric population. Further consideration of measurement testing is required to determine if the most common non-radiographic measures of metatarsus adductus are acceptable for clinical use.


Gait and Lower Limb Observation of Paediatrics (GALLOP): development of a consensus based paediatric podiatry and physiotherapy standardised recording proforma

Background: Paediatric gait and lower limb assessments are frequently undertaken in podiatry and physiotherapy clinical practice and this is a growing area of expertise within Australia. No concise paediatric standardised recording proforma exists to assist clinicians in clinical practice. The aim of this study was to develop a gait and lower limb standardised recording proforma guided by the literature and consensus, for assessment of the paediatric foot and lower limb in children aged 0–18 years.

Method: Expert Australian podiatrists and physiotherapists were invited to participate in a three round Delphi survey panel using the online Qualtrics© survey platform. The first round of the survey consisted of open-ended questions on paediatric gait and lower limb assessment developed from existing templates and a literature search of standardised lower limb assessment methods. Rounds two and three consisted of statements developed from the first round responses. Questions and statements were included in the final proforma if 70 % or more of the participants indicated consensus or agreement with the assessment method and if there was support within the literature for paediatric age-specific normative data with acceptable reliability of outcome measures.

Results: There were 17 of the 21 (81 %) participants who completed three rounds of the survey. Consensus was achieved for 41 statements in Round one, 54 statements achieved agreement in two subsequent rounds. Participants agreed on 95 statements relating to birth history, developmental history, hip measurement, rotation of the lower limb, ankle range of motion, foot posture, balance and gait. Assessments with acceptable validity and reliability were included within the final Gait and Lower Limb Observation of Paediatrics (GALLOP) proforma.

Conclusion: The GALLOP proforma is a consensus based, systematic and standardised way to collect information and outcome measures in paediatric lower limb assessment. This standardised recording proforma will assist professions to collect information in a standardised format based on best evidence assessment methods whilst aiding consistency in communication between health professionals.


Non-surgical management of a paediatric “intoed” gait pattern – a systematic review of the current best evidence

Background: An intoed gait pattern is one of the most common referrals for children to an orthopedic consultation. Parental concern as to the aesthetics of the child’s gait pattern and/or its symptomatic nature will primarily drive these referrals during a child’s early developmental years. Whilst some of these referrals prove to be the result of a normal growth variant, some children will present with a symptomatic intoed gait pattern. Various treatments, both conservative and surgical, have been proposed including: braces, wedges, stretches and exercises, shoe modifications, and surgical procedures. However, which treatments are effective and justified in the management of this condition is not clear within the literature. The aim of this systematic review was to therefore identify and critique the best available evidence for the non-surgical management of an intoed gait pattern in a paediatric population.

Method: A systematic review was conducted of which only experimental studies investigating a management option for an intoeing gait pattern were included. Studies needed to be written in English, pertaining to a human paediatric population, and published within a peer reviewed journal. Electronic databases were searched: Ovid (Medline), EMBASE, AMED, PubMed, SportDiscus, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s designation of levels of hierarchy and the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme cohort studies critical appraisal tool were used.

Results: Five level IV studies were found. The studies were of varied quality and with mixed results. Gait plates, physiologic/standardised shoes, and orthotic devices (with gate plate extension) were shown to produce a statistically significant improvement to an intoed gait pattern. Shoe wedges, Torqheels, and a leather counter splint were not able to reduce an intoed gait pattern.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence to inform the non-surgical management of a paediatric intoed gait pattern. The body of evidence that does exist is small (n = 5) and of varied quality, which means recommendations arising from this evidence base should be interpreted with caution. There is generally weak evidence that suggests that gait plates and orthotic devices with a gait plate extension may assist in the management of a paediatric intoed gait pattern.


Sever’s disease—Does it affect quality of life?

Background: Sever’s disease is a condition which has been described inconsistently in the literature with respect to pathology, aetiology and management. In particular, the impact of this condition has been overlooked, probably because it is usually self-limiting.

Method: This study used a prospective comparative design study to determine the impact of Sever’s disease on the quality of life of its sufferers.

Results: Three scales – Happiness, Satisfaction with symptoms and Pain/comfort scale – from the POSNA musculoskeletal questionnaire showed significant differences between the symptomatic and control groups.

Conclusion: Although the condition may resolve with time, these results show that it has a considerable impact on children’s lives.


Sever’s Disease: A Prospective Study of Risk Factors

Background: Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is thought to be an inflammation of the apophysis of the heel, which is open in childhood. This condition has been commented on and looked at in a retrospective manner but has not been examined systematically. We assembled the most commonly cited theoretical causative models identified from the literature and tested them to determine whether any were risk factors.

Methods: Children with Sever’s disease were compared with a similarly aged non-symptomatic population to determine whether identifiable risk factors exist for the onset of Sever’s disease. Areas raised in the literature and, hence, compared were biomechanical foot malalignment, as measured by Root et al–type foot measurements and the Foot Posture Index; ankle joint dorsiflexion, measured with a modified apparatus; body mass index; and total activity and types of sport played.

Results: Statistically significant but small odds ratios were found in forefoot to rearfoot determination and left ankle joint dorsiflexion.

Conclusions: This study suggests that there is no evidence to support that weight and activity levels are risk factors for Sever’s disease. The statistically significant but clinically negligible odds ratio (0.93) on the left side for decreased ankle joint dorsiflexion and statistically significant and clinically stronger odds ratio bilaterally for forefoot to rearfoot malalignment suggest that biomechanical malalignment is an area for further investigation.


The dark side (not really, just some stuff on adult’s feet…)

Consensus-based recommendations of Australian podiatrists for the prescription of foot orthoses for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults (The FootPRoP).

Background: Foot orthoses are commonly used for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults. However, there are no clinical guidelines for the prescription of customised foot orthoses that are specific to this population. The aim of this study was to investigate prescription habits of Australian podiatrists for customised foot orthoses for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults and to develop consensus-based practice recommendations for the prescription of these foot orthoses.

Methods: A four round Delphi survey was undertaken with 24 podiatric experts to establish current use and rationale for individual prescription variables of customised foot orthoses for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults. Round one determined prescription use (consensus) and rounds two, three and four determined the rationale for use (agreement) of prescription variables across the rearfoot, midfoot, forefoot, as well as accommodation and materials used. For consensus and agreement to be accepted, 70% of the respondents were required to use or agree on the rationale for use of individual prescription variables.

Results: Consensus was reached in round one for two variables, choice of shell material (polyolefin) and when to prescribe a forefoot post balanced to perpendicular. In rounds two, three and four, agreement was reached for 52 statements related to the rationale for use of individual prescription variables, including when to prescribe: an inverted cast pour [heel in an inverted position], an inverted rearfoot post, a medial heel (Kirby) skive, minimal/maximum arch fill, a medial flange, a forefoot post and common orthotic accommodations.

Conclusion: This study found consensus or agreement for the use of several prescription variables for customised foot orthoses for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults. The findings were used to develop the Foot orthosis Prescription Recommendations for symptomatic flexible pes planus in adults (FootPRoP) proforma, to guide clinicians and researchers in the prescription of customised foot orthoses for this population.


Download the FootPRoP Proforma here

Foot orthoses for adults with flexible pes planus: a systematic review

Background: Foot orthoses are widely used in the management of flexible pes planus, yet the evidence to support this intervention has not been clearly defined. This systematic review aimed to critically appraise the evidence for the use of foot orthoses for flexible pes planus in adults.

Methods: Electronic databases (Medline, CINAHL, Cochrane, Web of science, SportDiscus, Embase) were systematically searched in June 2013 for randomised controlled, controlled clinical and repeated measure trials where participants had identified flexible pes planus using a validated and reliable measure of pes planus and the intervention was a rigid or semi-rigid orthoses with the comparison being a no-orthoses (shoes alone or flat non-posted insert) condition. Outcomes of interest were foot pain, rearfoot kinematics, foot kinetics and physical function.

Results: Of the 2,211 articles identified by the searches, 13 studies met the inclusion criteria; two were randomised controlled trials, one was a controlled trial and 10 were repeated measure studies. Across the included studies, 59 relevant outcome measures were reported with 17 calculated as statistically significant large or medium effects observed with use of foot orthoses compared to the no orthoses condition (SMD range 1.13 to -4.11).

Conclusions: No high level evidence supported the use of foot orthoses for flexible pes planus. There is good to moderate level evidence that foot orthoses improve physical function (medial-lateral sway in standing (level II) and energy cost during walking (level III)). There is low level evidence (level IV) that foot orthoses improve pain, reduce rearfoot eversion, alter loading and impact forces; and reduce rearfoot inversion and eversion moments in flexible pes planus. Well-designed randomised controlled trials that include appropriate sample sizes, clinical cohorts and involve a measure of symptom change are required to determine the efficacy of foot orthoses to manage adult flexible pes planus.