You often worry about your children’s teeth, eyes, and other parts of their body. You teach them how to wash, brush, and groom, but what do you do about your child’s feet as they are still developing? Many adult foot ailments, as with other health issues, have their origins in childhood, and can be present at birth. Periodic professional attention from your podiatrist and regular foot care can minimize these problems.
Neglecting your child’s foot health creates negative effects on other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. Foot health begins in childhood because your child’s feet must carry him or her for a lifetime. Your child’s life is certain to be happier and more enjoyable if you have your child develop strong, healthy feet as he or she grows into adulthood.
Your Podiatrist Explains: The Early Years
The human foot is one of the most complicated parts of the body, with 26 bones as well as ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. The feet of an infant are soft and pliable, and abnormal pressure can cause deformities. In the first year, a child’s foot grows rapidly, reaching almost half their adult foot size. Podiatrists consider the first year to be the most important in regards to development. To help ensure normal growth, allow your baby to kick and stretch his or her feet, and make sure shoes and socks do not squeeze their toes.
Your toddler will walk when he or she is ready, and you should try not to force this act. Watch your child’s gait once he or she begins to walk. Pay close attention to see if their toe touches first in their step instead of the heel, or if your child always sits while others actively play. Many toddlers have a pigeon-toed gait, which is normal, and some initially learn to walk landing on their toes instead of their heels. Most children outgrow these problems, but they could be a sign of a problem that will continue into adulthood without treatment.
Footwear for your Child
Children should not wear shoes until they can walk, so avoid pram shoes, which are normally soft, and usually made to match outfits. For babies, avoid tightly wrapped blankets that prevent kicking and leg movement. Walking barefoot in the home, where it's safe, is good for children. Your child’s feet are vulnerable to deformity from any ill-fitting footwear until the bones are completely formed at about 18 years of age. In addition, socks made from natural materials are better for your child’s feet than stretch-fit socks.
When buying shoes for your child, the shape of the shoe and the toe area should be wide and round, allowing for toes to move and spread. It is also important for the shoe to have a lace or a buckle. Without this, your child’s toes will claw to hold the shoe on, much the same way you may find yourself doing when you wear flip flops. The heel of the shoe should not be too high, as high heels can also result in foot deformity.
Start early in taking care of your children’s feet, because neglecting foot health is an invitation for severe problems. Contact your podiatrist for further consultation on your child’s growing, active feet. Having strong, healthy feet allows your child to walk, run, and play. Take extra precautions to protect their feet, so they may experience a lifetime of healthy activity.