Flat feet have no effect on a child's athletic ability, new research suggests.

Dr. Anton Tudor of the University of Rijeka in Croatia and his colleagues found no relationship between the height of kids' arches and their performance on a battery of tests to measure their motor skills.

"We suggest that there is no need for treatment of flexible flat feet with the sole purpose of improving athletic performance, as traditionally advised by many," the researchers conclude in their report in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Children with flat feet are frequently prescribed arch supports, but the benefit of these devices is "doubtful" at best, given that scientific evidence for their use is lacking, Tudor and his team note.

To investigate whether flat-footedness might have any link to motor skills, they looked at 218 children ranging in age from 11 to 15 years, dividing them into four groups based on arch height. The study participants completed 17 different tests measuring jumping and hopping ability, speed and reaction time, balance and other factors relevant to athletic performance.

There was no relationship between how flat a child's feet were and his or her performance on the tests, the researchers found, even when they compared the group with the lowest arches to the group with the highest arches.

However, they add, the relationship between arch height and injury risk is still controversial. One study in US Army recruits found those with the lowest arches were actually less likely to be injured during basic training, they note, while other research has found flat feet boost injury risk, or have no relationship to the likelihood of being injured.

Nevertheless, Tudor and his colleagues say, "It seems that foot flatness does not affect lower leg motor abilities, so accordingly, the application of standard corrective insoles with the purpose to improve athletic performance in children aged 11 to 15 years, as traditionally advised by many, is at least questionable and maybe even not advisable."