Most of us are born with trouble-free feet, yet, alarmingly, three out of four adults have some kind of foot problem.
A baby’s foot is not just a smaller version of an adult foot, it’s shorter and wider and tapers towards the heel. At birth, all 26 bones are made of cartilage, not bone. These feet are soft, pliable and susceptible to damage. As the foot grows, the cartilage ossifies, i.e. changes into bone.
Because the baby foot is so soft, it is easily misshapen. The feet should be left to develop naturally, to minimise the risk of early damage.
Keep bedclothes loose-fitting and light, so that the feet are not restricted.
Encourage your baby to exercise their feet in kicking or similar actions.
Do not restrict feet in stretch hosiery or too tight a sleeping suit. Many babies have curly toes at birth, but most straighten naturally.
Parents are delighted when their children take their first steps, but it’s important not to force children into walking. They will start when they are ready, usually between 10 – 18 months.
Shoes are not necessary in the early stages, in fact, the less covering, the better. Walking barefoot is, after all, the natural way and it allows the foot to develop and strengthen the muscles they will need for getting about.
Once walking is established and the heels are in contact with the ground, children are ready for their first shoes. Always ensure that shoes are purchased in a reputable children’s shoe shop, where the feet are measured correctly.
One of the most common complaints the Podiatrist sees is babies with flat feet. Most babies appear to be flat footed, but this usually disappears when they start to stand and walk and it normally causes no problem later in life. Usually, no treatment is necessary.
Another complaint we often get is about young children whose feet either toe-out or toe-in. Tripping is often the first sign parents notice. Often ,this can be successfully treated by exercises or by padding to encourage the foot back into a normal position, however, occasionally variations in the structure of the feet or developmental problems occur which need the help of a paediatrician. Your podiatrist will refer you if necessary.
Shoes and Socks
As children grow and their feet continue to develop, it is advisable to check shoes sizes every few weeks to make sure they have not out-grown their shoes. Although most foot problems are caused by injury, deformity, illness of hereditary factors, improper footwear or hosiery can aggravate any problems that already exist. Correctly fitting shoes, wide enough to allow the toes to move and with laces, buckles or Velcro fastenings to keep the heels in place, help the feet to develop naturally.
Don’t assume that if your child does not complain that there isn’t a problem. Children often can’t feel damage being done, so inspect their feet regularly, at least every bath time.