Children’s feet differ from those of adults. At 6 months, a child’s foot is still mostly cartilage with the last bone forming around 3 years of age. By 18 years, most of the bones in the foot are fully formed.
In clinic, we are asked by numerous parents about the best ways to support their child’s growing foot, at the many different stages of development.
Development of Children’s Feet
Newborn feet only need protection in the cooler weather. Growing suit, socks or small soft natural fibre shoes can be used to keep tiny feet warm. Always make sure that these items are loose around your baby’s feet and make time for your baby to kick freely as this will assist in the development of the muscles in the legs and feet.
From the time between 10 to 20 months of age, children usually begin to walk. Each toddler is unique; rolling, crawling, walking and running happens at different times for different children and it is important to allow each child to move through the developmental stages at their own pace. Use of certain equipment like Jolly Jumpers or Walkers has no proven evidence of helping toddlers to walk early, and may place unnecessary stress & pressure on feet that are not yet ready for taking weight.
When children first begin to walk, shoes should only be used when protection is needed from the outside ground. Barefoot or very soft shoes are best initially as they help the foot to develop and assist in the strengthening of foot muscles.
A child’s foot grows in length and changes in shape with growth. Arch profile development is unique and arch height, or lack thereof does not always indicate that a child will have problems with their feet. Due to rapid growth in width and length, frequent changes in the size of shoes and socks may be necessary. It is important that you check your child’s foot in relation to their shoes size regularly; as a rule of thumb, checking every one to three months up to 3 years of age, every four months up to the age of 5 and every six months thereafter.
Just like adults, shoes should above all protect your child’s feet. Ill-fitting or worn shoes can cause unnecessary and excessive pressure and stress on growing feet that can contribute to the development of pain and injury. Below is some advice about finding the right footwear for your child’s growing feet:
- Always have both feet measured for length and width – too short or narrow can cause abnormal pressure, whilst too long or broad results in clawing of the toes and can lead to tripping.
- The shoes should fit the natural shape of the foot, especially at the toes.
- The toe of the shoes should allow toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top or the sides – allow 1cm growing room between the longest toes and the end of the shoes.
- Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel and not be too loose or too tight.
- Shoes should only bend at toe region – shoes that bend in the arch increase abnormal forces on the foot.
- Shoes should be relatively light in weight – the heavier the shoe, the harder the growing feet and legs have to work.
- Make sure the footwear matches the activity – if playing tennis, wear tennis shoes etc.
Having your child’s footwear fitted in store by a trained assistant can help ensure the correct size and shape to keep little feet running and jumping.
Common concerns for parents
Children’s feet are susceptible to many problems seen in adults, including ingrown toe nails, athlete’s foot/fungal infections and plantar warts. Other conditions seen within the developing foot and lower limb are unique to adolescents.
Below is a list of common foot and lower limb issues seen in children within our clinic:
- Flat feet/rolled-in feet
- Intoeing (Pigeon toed) / Out-toeing (Duck feet)
- Toe walking
- Heel Pain
- Knee Pain
- Forefoot Pain
- In-grown toe nails
- Unusual shaped/positioned toes
- Bowlegged / Knock-Kneed
- Limb Length Discrepancy
- Growing Pains
- Reduced strength/Low muscle tone
Some conditions seen in children are a variation of normal development that resolve in time and often only requires reassurance whilst some can often impede activity and require a more targeted intervention. A check-up with a Podiatrist is recommended if you notice:
- uneven shoe wear
- skin rashes, hard skin, lumps or bumps on your child’s feet
- your child complaining of recurrent pain in the feet and/or lower legs which also increases with activity
- your child constantly tripping or falling
- Your child’s walk/run does not look symmetrical
- Or you have any other concerns about your child’s feet
If you believe your child is in need of a check-up or is complaining about pain, Mullins Podiatry is ready to help. Please call today at one of our many locations.