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As your child grows from an infant into their teenage years, pay close attention to their feet - how they walk & run as well as how well they take care of their feet (such as overall care & their personal hygiene). You should also check their shoes for unevenly worn soles. If, at any time, you notice something that does not look right or normal to you - such as them favoring a foot or ankle, in-toeing, tip-toeing, redness, swelling, discoloration, etc. - please contact your Foot Specialist. Many foot deformities and foot & ankle related conditions will not correct themselves, but your Podiatrist is trained to identify and treat these conditions. After all, this pair has to last a lifetime!
Baby's feet are soft & pliable and will increase in size dramatically during their first few years. Allow babies the opportunity to move unrestricted & uncovered. Shoes, socks & booties are not necessary & may restrict toes and hinder foot development. Unrestricted movement, such as air kicking, helps to develop baby's legs to get ready to walk. Avoid comparing your child's development with that of other children & please do not force a young child to walk. When they are mentally and physically ready, they will walk. This typically happens between 10-18 months.
While indoors, shoes are not necessary as long as the area is clean and clear of anything that may hurt their feet if stepped on or bumped into. Socks, slippers or booties should be avoided on hard floors as they may cause baby to slip & fall. It can be very beneficial for infants to walk barefoot around the home to help develop their leg muscles.
Arches in the feet start to form around 2-3 years old. It is not uncommon for babies to walk differently at first, such as walking on their tip-toes, flat-footed, with their toes turned in or even tripping once in a while, however if this continues past age 3-4, please contact your Foot Specialist. Walking is a great exercise for the feet, however prolonged, abnormal walking may lead to foot and ankle related problems later in life. If foot problems or deformities, such as bunions or flat feet, run in your family, its a good idea to have a Podiatrist take a look at your young child's feet once they start walking to help ensure their feet are developing normally.
Children & Pre-Teens:
Walking barefoot is not recommended for children (or adults!). As children get older, they move much faster and do not always look at where they are going. There are many unseen hazards in the dirt, grass or even on the beach ranging from a piece of glass to a thorn or sticker, a rock or piece of coral that can easily become lodged in a foot or toe and cause serious injury. Dirty driveways, sidewalks or pavement can cause a variety of problems as well as sprains, fractures or infections.
As children become more active while playing, participating in PE and/or sports, wearing good supportive foot gear can help prevent injuries. When shopping for shoes, look for shoes made out of leather, mesh or a combination of letter & mesh with a stiff heel. Press on the outsides of the heel area to ensure the sides do not easily collapse. While the heel should be rigid, shoes should be flexible in the toe area - the toe box should bend where the toes would bend but not fold easily together. This allows the toes to bend naturally in the shoe when walking. One last test is to grab the shoe with one hand at the toes and the other hand at the heel and try to twist the ends of shoe in opposite directions - if it is supportive, it should not twist easily. Also avoid high heels or fashion shoes, which typically do not provide much support at all and can increase the odds of injury.
Wearing the right kind of socks can also help prevent sweaty feet and/or smelly feet. Socks made of natural or synthetic blends are best as these materials "wick" moisture away from the skin. Often overlooked are the seams of socks - avoid large or thick seams that may cause irritation or blisters.
From birth to the teenage years, a child's foot changes dramatically in size and even in shape. Taking good care of young, growing feet during these years can help to prevent or minimize foot problems into adulthood. Some common conditions that may be develop during these early years are listed below. Click here to read more about these conditions.