Do flat feet hurt a child's athletic performance? Popular wisdom says yes. But a new study in the journal Pediatrics says no, finding that children with flat feet do just as well in sports as those with "normal" feet, and calling into doubt the traditional treatment of flat feet with corrective insoles (e.g. orthotics).
Researchers in Croatia measured the degree of foot flatness of 218 children aged 11 to 15 years and how well they performed on 17 different tests of motor skills essential for athletic/sport performance. They could find no relationship at all between athletic performance and foot flatness, even when comparing just children with very low and children with very high arches.
"For some reason, traditionally, flat-footedness [has been considered] some kind of disability," writes lead study author, Anton Tudor, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Rijeka School of Medicine. Earlier studies suggested that children with flat feet are slow runners, perform poorly in sports, and are more prone to lower-leg injuries. "We strongly believe that [such studies] stigmatizes children with flat feet," writes Dr. Tudor.
While admitting that the study would only add to the existing controversy about the value of corrective insoles in the treatment of flat-footedness, the study nevertheless concluded that their value was "at least questionable and maybe even not advisable."