A research study to find out how successful surgical devices or exercises are in treating children with flat feet is being run by Walsall Healthcare – the first of its kind within podiatry at the NHS Trust.
Paediatric specialist podiatrist Peter Barker is Principal Investigator for the Orthotics for Treatment of Symptomatic Flat Feet in Children (OSTRICH), study which is being run throughout the UK.
Its aim is to assess the clinical effectiveness of therapeutic orthoses (surgical devices that support joints or correct deformities) in children aged six to fourteen with symptomatic pes planus (flat feet). As a child grows the shape of their foot changes and most develop an arch in their foot. For some, however, the arch does not fully form or it might be flat against the ground. When this happens it is known as having flat feet which can cause pain in the feet, legs, or back.
Currently, management for children with this specific condition varies across the country and it is hoped that OSTRICH will help provide an evidence base so all practitioners have guidance on the best care for young patients with this condition.
Senior Research Nurse Robert Chadwick said: “We’re really proud to be taking part in this study in Walsall and doing what we can to ensure the best treatment options for our patients.
“From a research perspective, it is also encouraging to see Allied Health Professionals offering their patients such studies and our FORCE (Faculty of Research and Clinical Education) team is always looking for ways it can support staff in all areas to get involved.”
Peter said: “Working in the allied health profession as a podiatrist I have always strived to provide the most up to date, evidence-based treatments for my patients.
“In the small world of podiatry there are often gaps in research which means we have to adapt and evolve treatments based on our own clinical findings and experiences. I don’t profess to be a research expert but do believe I can play some role in expanding the small evidence base for the greater good of the profession and our patients.
“I have felt out of my ‘comfort zone’ and find research a daunting proposition but the support I have received so far has been excellent and help is at hand whenever I need it. In fact, expanding my professional network and meeting new people has been a major highlight of my experiences from this study so far.”
The purpose of this research is to conduct a trial to compare two of the most common treatments that are used today. The first is exercise and advice about things like which types of shoes might help. The second of the treatments being tested is a type of insole, which is put inside the shoe.
Any child or young person and their parent or guardian who decides they would like to take part in the 12-month trial will receive their treatment as part of their normal NHS care. Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust would like to find 478 children and young people aged between six and 14 to take part. Everyone will receive advice about the type of shoes to wear, exercises and foot health advice for children with painful flat feet. In addition to this, half of the participants will receive an insole.
During the 12-month period, the Trust will track their progress by sending them three questionnaires in the post to fill in along with weekly text messages to find out how painful the children’s feet are during the first few months.
Robert added: “We also want to learn more about the problems that flat feet cause, and children’s experiences of the treatments delivered as part of this clinical trial. We will explore this through in-depth conversations with children and their parent(s) or the person who looks after them. Once we have finished the trial, we will work with those who took part in it, and clinicians, to make sure that our results can be used by as many people as possible.”