Children’s Foot Health
Maintaining and caring for a child’s foot will benefit their health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives. The foot is a very complex structure, and as the foundation for our entire body, any problems with the feet can result in aches and pains in the feet, ankles, knees, hips and back. A good fitting pair of shoes will support the foot and encourage healthy development. It is important to remember that a child’s foot is not a miniature version of an adult’s foot. In fact, a child’s foot displays a variety of characteristics throughout their growth that should be accommodated by their footwear as they develop. In newborn babies, the 26 bones in the foot have not fully developed, so the foot is mainly soft and flexible cartilage. The bones are not usually hardened until the individual is 18 years old. This means that during development in childhood, the foot is at risk from injury and deformity due to poor fitting footwear.
When looking for footwear for your child, the toe area should have sufficient depth to allow the toes to move freely. The heel height should be no greater than 4cm with a broad base of shock-absorbing material. The shoe should fit snugly around the heel area, should be held to the foot with laces, Velcro or a strap, and should be made of leather. While many schools insist on children wearing plimsolls, they are in fact an unsuitable shoe for a growing foot, and should not be worn all the time. The rubber soling unit encourages sweating, and if they are slip on, this may encourage toe deformity. Many children are also wearing very flat slip-on ‘dolly shoes’. These shoes can cause stress to the structures of the foot resulting in pain. They also tend to have very thin soles that give little protection from injury.
Children will walk independently in their own time, and so with this in mind StEPS Podiatry® suggest that baby walkers are best avoided. Baby walkers can encourage the joints in the foot to take the load earlier than intended and to move in an unnatural walking pattern.
Some common foot problems seen in children include athlete’s foot, Verruca, sweaty and smelly feet, in-growing toenails, blisters and structural deformity like flat feet. If parents are concerned they should always seek professional advice, as it is better for the fears to be unfounded than to discover, often too late, that treatment was required. StEPS Podiatry® can help your child by carrying out an initial assessment, providing diagnosis and then either managing the condition or referring to the appropriate health care professional. Treatment may take the form of footwear advice, biomechanical assessment – which looks at how the foot is functioning and often involves the provision of foot orthoses (special insoles), active hands on treatment and health education.