Children’s feet are very soft and pliable. Abnormal pressures from shoes and surfaces can lead to complications later in life if ignored.
At birth, the bones in your baby’s feet are not yet fully formed and are mostly still cartilage. As the feet grow, the cartilage starts changing into bone and the foot strengthens and lengthens. Baby feet are not miniature adult feet; they are shorter and wider in shape and taper toward the heel. Most babies are born with flat feet; this is because the arch has not yet formed and that foot is protected by a layer of baby fat. Your baby’s feet will grow quickly. In fact, they will reach almost 1/2 their adult foot size during your baby’s first year but will continue to develop well into their teens.
Baby feet look so cute and cuddly but it is also important to remember that they are also very soft and flexible and therefore vulnerable to damage. Too much pressure can affect the shape of your baby’s foot and the layer of baby fat means that your child will feel no pain while this is happening.
Most children start to take their first steps around 10 – 18 months. While your child is learning to walk and are safely indoors, let your child walk barefoot as much as possible. Walking barefoot is completely natural and allows the muscles and ligaments in your child’s foot to grow straight and strong.
Once your child is ready to walk outdoors or on rough surfaces such as grass, concrete and asphalt, it’s time to consider buying your child’s first shoes. The main purpose of shoes at this stage is to protect your child’s feet. The shoes should be lightweight, flexible and made of natural or ‘breathable’ materials. The shoes must be comfortable straight away. If they need to be ‘broken in’ they are not the right shoes for your child.
Poorly fitted shoes restrict your child’s feet and can cause foot problems and deformities, so make sure the shoes are the proper length, width, depth and shape for your child’s feet. Take time to find a good footwear store with competent shoe fitters as they can help you select the right shoes for your child. As growth spurts can occur at any time, expect your child to outgrow their shoes well before the shoes are worn out. Toddlers often require new shoes every 2 – 3 months, young children (24 – 36 months of age) every 3 – 4 months and children over 3 years, every 4 – 6 months.
Once your child has mastered the art of walking, then the fun really begins. Young children have boundless energy and are soon running, jumping and skipping everywhere. They love playing sports and are eager to participate. As a parent, it is hard not to worry about your children getting injured playing sport as sports injuries are quite common. It is important to monitor your child’s sporting activities particularly if the sports involve a great deal of running and turning or are full contact sports. There are also a number of things you can do to try and prevent foot and lower limb sports injuries:
- Consider buying your child sports-specific footwear to help protect the feet.
- Make sure your child uses the proper protective gear for a particular sport.
- Encourage your child to do warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging before sports. This can help reduce the risk of muscle strain and soft tissue injury.
- Encourage your child to do cooling down exercises after sport. This helps to loosen muscles that have tightened during sport.
Many adult foot problems have their roots in childhood problems that were either ignored or undiagnosed. Don’t assume that your child will know if they have a problem with their feet. Remember that your child’s foot is soft and flexible and can be twisted and squeezed without your child even being aware of it. So use the following indications to help you identify whether your child has a potential foot problem.
- Your child’s feet don’t look normal to you or appear to have a deformity
- Your child’s shoes show uneven wear patterns or seem to wear out too quickly
- Your child complains of tired feet and legs or wakes up with night time cramps
- Your child seems to walk irregularly? He or she walks on their toes, toe in or toe out, seem to have one leg longer than the other or have knocked knees.
- Your child often trips or stumbles.
There is a Formthotics™ Youth range available specifically designed for young children through to young adults. They support your child’s foot in its natural foot posture to make them more comfortable. Formthotics Youth products give your child’s feet gentle ‘forgiving’ support and to enhance the natural development of your child’s musculoskeletal system.
Make an appointment with your local podiatrist who can help determine the care needed for your child's feet, and whether or not orthotics will help.