As parents, we worry about our children’s eyes, teeth and other parts of our anatomy. We teach them washing, grooming and brushing their hair. But what do you do about your children’s feet? Their feet are still developing and have to carry their whole body’s weight for a lifespan. Their feet will walk thousands and thousands of kilometers in their lifetime!
Many adult foot complications, like other problems in the body, have their origins in childhood and may be present at birth. Periodic professional attention and monitoring can minimize many of these problems in later life.
Overlooking foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as knees, hips, and back. A child with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually will have poor posture. They may be clumsy, or have delayed physical milestones. As a result, the developing child may be shy, introverted, and avoid sports or social functions.
The human foot has 26 bones, (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet.); 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments (Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones and ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones). It is one of the most complicated parts of the body. The feet of young children are soft and supple, and abnormal pressure can cause abnormalities.
A child’s feet grow quickly during their first year, reaching almost half their adult size. This is why we should consider the first year of a child’s life to be the most significant in the development of the feet.
Some suggestions to help you assure that this development proceeds normally are:
- Carefully look at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, seek professional care promptly. A podiatrist that specializes in children’s feet is a good starting point. Deformities will not be outgrown or fixed by themselves.
- Cover baby’s feet loosely. Tight covers limit movement and can retard normal development.
- Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered permits the baby to kick and implement other related motions which prepare the feet for weight bearing.
- Change the baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put unnecessary strain on the feet and legs.
Starting to Walk
It’s unwise to force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since the age for normal independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months.
When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allow the youngster to go barefoot or to wear socks only. This helps the foot grow normally and to develop its musculature, and strength, as well as the grasping action in toes. Of course when walking outdoors, babies feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear preferably made of natural materials.
As a child’s feet develop, it may be necessary to change sock and shoe size every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot complications result mainly from injury, deformity, illness or hereditary factors, inappropriate footwear can exacerbate pre-existing conditions. Footwear should never be handed down!
The feet of young children are often unstable because of muscle problems which make walking difficult or uncomfortable. A thorough examination by a paediatric podiatrist may detect an underlying defect or condition which may require treatment or referral to a specialist. Children’s feet are a specialty, and it is always best to consult with a podiatrist that specializes in kid’s feet.
All children at the age of 2 will have flat feet and be bow legged, kids at the age of 4 will have knock knees, and a developing arch. As a paediatric podiatrist, I have come across many children that have been corrected unnecessarily by general podiatrists trying to correct what are essentially normal values/attributes for a developing child.
Feet problems noticed in a child will not vanish by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you’ve noticed earlier. A lack of complaint by your child is not a dependable sign. The bones of developing feet are so supple that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.
Walking patterns need to be observed carefully. The child may have an in toe (pigeon toed) or out toe (duck toed) gait, or other gait abnormalities. Many of these problems can be corrected if they are detected early.
If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, please contact reception on 02 9518 0722
David Wong (Podiatrist)