Once you are a parent you start to notice every little thing about your child. You notice their eating habits, methods of communicating, how quickly they are growing and when they are becoming unwell. Parents also often notice when something is not quite right developmentally, even if they cannot put their finger on it.
Over the next 6 months we will be forming a series of blogs dedicated to the most common paediatric foot conditions that present due to concerned parents. These include in-toeing (pigeon toe), out-toeing (cowboy/Charlie Chaplain walk), overlapping toes, tripping, limping, ingrown-toenails, heel pain and growing pains.
To start us off, today we will be talking about stages of development of children’s feet and how this can impact on footwear fitting. It is well known that looking after a child’s feet from a young age can be of benefit to their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. The feet provide a foundation for bodily posture, which is why their function can have such diverse impacts on the body.
A child’s foot is significantly different to an adult foot. It is not simply a miniature version. As a baby, the foot is mostly made up of cartilage (soft bone) and the last bone to begin forming usually does not do so until approximately 3 years old. By the time your child is 18 years old, the bones will be mostly formed.
Considering that children’s feet are soft and malleable, it places them at risk of damage due to tight or restrictive footwear. Foot care can begin as early as straight after birth. When choosing a romper or grow suit, always make sure that the child’s foot is not constrained by the material. In other words, their foot needs to have room to freely kick or bounce without putting pressure on the toes. The same goes for socks and soft booties.
Walking usually starts to occur between the ages of 10-24 months. They typically advance in the timeline described below, although sometimes they can skip a step.
Lying –> Sitting –> Crawling –> Standing –> Cruising –> Walking –> Hopping, jumping and running
Once they start walking, the child will need to wear shoes for outdoor activities. However, when indoors at home, allow your child to roam free without shoes. This will help to build the intrinsic foot muscles that strengthen the foot arches. For outdoors, choose a soft-soled (ie. Rubber), low cut sneaker that has plenty of room for the toes to wiggle. Children typically outgrow their shoes every 3-12 months and so the extra room will not last long. Be diligent and check regularly.
If in doubt, consult your podiatrist for more information or head to a quality shoe store that specialises in children’s footwear fitting.