It is paramount at all ages to have good foot health and it starts at the very beginning of life. Feet should always be washed daily and dried properly, especially between the toes to prevent infections. The developmental years for children’s feet will directly affect their strength and mobility therefore early detection and treatment can make the difference.
A child’s foot is not a mini adult’s foot, it is still developing and as such the bones are cartilaginous hence soft and relatively easily deformed by external pressures. Walking barefoot actually helps feet develop by giving the toe freedom to move and “grasp” the floor naturally developing strength and coordination.
Baby footwear should be soft and flexible to allow natural function but provide a protective cover to stop potential cuts and infections caused by trauma from objects and walking surfaces. Bunions and toe deformities can be initiated at this early stage if the fit is not correct. Each stage of development crawling, walking, climbing, running or jumping places different demands on the foot so different qualities are required from footwear throughout our lives.
Children’s shoes should have a stable heel and heel counter it should allow the ball of the foot to flex and the side should be just wider than the width of the weight bearing foot. There should also be adjustable fastenings such as laces, zips, buckles, toggles or velcro to give a secure fit. As children grow so quickly it is suggested that their feet are measured every 3 to 4 months.
Children should not wear “hand me down” shoes as these will have “wear patterns” that have been moulded into the previous child’s foot function and therefore apply abnormal pressures. High heels should not be worn as this causes instability and possible foot deformity. All children have flat feet initially but as they grow an arch should start developing by approximately age 7.
Toe walking is frequently seen but by the age of 2 heel contact should be established.
In-toeing or pigeon toes is also commonly seen. However, this generally comes from a developmental problem higher up in the skeleton, such as the rotational forces around the hip. Simple exercises such as roller skating or ice-skating can help this.
As with any foot problems early diagnosis and interventions, if required, leads to a better outcome.
Remember to always look after your feet as you will never get another pair!