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How Do I Choose the Best Orthotics for Children?

By Emma Miller
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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Pediatric orthotics include a range of insoles and splints designed to support the correct function of a child’s lower legs and feet. Orthotics for children may be used to treat common biomechanical foot issues, like over or under pronation. They may also be used as part of a treatment plan to promote joint and muscle stability in children born prematurely or children with low muscle tone, such as those diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. Orthotics for children may be custom-made or ready-made. Choosing the best device for a child generally depends on the underlying foot or muscle issue from which the child suffers.

Orthotics are devices commonly worn throughout the day, inside a person’s shoes, as splints or insoles. Custom-made and over-the-counter orthotic devices are generally comfortable and their use helps prevent the muscle stiffness typically experienced by children with biomechanical or muscle issues of the foot. There are many kinds of pediatric orthotics to address different types of childhood foot, muscle, or gait issues.

Young children experience a multitude of developmental changes, and children under the age of seven tend to have flat feet, which they naturally outgrow. Some specialists argue that it is best not to alter the foot alignment in those younger than seven years of age with orthotics for minor biomechanical disorders. In children older than seven, however, orthotics may be used to correct misalignments that stem from common issues like over- or under-pronation. A podiatrist or pediatrician may assess the child’s gait and offer recommendations for suitable orthotics. These may be purchased ready-made, over-the-counter.

Early orthotic intervention is important for some kids, however. Orthotics for children may be used by those as young as two in some circumstances. Children with muscle tone issues, developmental disabilities, or motor disorders — like cerebral palsy — may benefit from early intervention by an orthotist. A biomechanical assessment of a child’s feet and gait can help specialists custom-design the pediatric orthotics best suited for that patient's particular needs. The use of custom-made orthotics can help maintain the proper alignment of a child’s legs and feet during growth and development.

Choosing the best orthotics for children can be challenging. In the absence of an underlying developmental or motor disorder, ready-made orthotics may provide sufficient relief from over- or under-pronation in children older than seven. The size and anatomy of children’s feet changes as they grow, so regular, yearly assessments by a podiatrist, pediatrician, or orthotist are important.

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