Children’s feet differ from those of adults, as they are not yet fully formed.
At six months of age the foot is still mostly cartilage, in fact the last bone doesn’t begin to form until children are about three years old. By 18 years, most of the bones are fully formed.
Children’s feet are soft and pliable making them prone to damage from abnormal pressure, such as shoes which are too small.
Foot care can begin in infancy by keeping your baby’s feet unconstrained. Grow suits should always be loose around your baby’s feet. Making time for your baby to kick freely will help with the development of the muscles in the legs and feet.
Children usually begin to walk any time between 10 and 24 months of age. It is important to remember that each child is unique and will move through the developmental stages at their own pace. Each child follows a developmental sequence from lying to sitting, crawling, standing, cruising, walking to running, jumping and hopping.
When your child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allowing babies to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and promotes the grasping action of toes. Children learning to walk should be allowed to do without footwear and on varied surfaces as much as possible. When it is cold or the surface is rough, a flexible, soft soled shoe is appropriate.
Toe-walking – where a child consistently walks only on their toes- is not normal and should be seen by a podiatrist. Arch development is also an individual thing and tends to stabilize by six or seven years of age. Arch height does not always indicate that a child will have problems with their feet.
A child’s foot will double in size by the age of one and they are approximately half their adult length by 18 months of age. Between the ages of 5 and 12 growth is approximately 9mm per year, with adult foot size approximated by 12 to 14 years of age.
Frequent changes in the size of shoes and socks are necessary to make room for rapidly growing feet during childhood. Do a size check at least every one to three months up to the age of 3, every four months up to 5 years and every six months from 5 years.
It is important that shoes are fitted by a specialist in children’s footwear to avoid injury and discomfort.
Growing pains are very common in children and can cause a lot of discomfort. Most commonly, children experience the pain when they are sleeping, which can place a lot of strain on the whole family.
In most cases this is not just a normal part of childhood, this problem can be related to the activities that your child participates in and the development of the child.
If children’s development of lower limb alignment is not correct it can cause increased load on their legs and feet.
Our team can assess if the growing pains are related to the child’s development and can help strengthen and align the lower limb to help reduce this problem.
Our team can also help suggest helpful strategies to improve sleep and help to reduce this pain.
Heel pain can also occur in growing children, usually between the ages of 8 and 13, as they increase their participation in sporting activities.
Heel pain that limits activity or is present all the time should be checked by a podiatrist. The podiatrist will be able to determine whether or not the heel pain is related to the developmental process and give advice about ways to alleviate symptoms.
Skin and nails
Problems with the skin or nails on your child’s feet may occur from time to time. Some conditions (in-grown toenails, athlete’s foot and warts) require treatment from a podiatrist, while others may be helped by changes in hygiene or shoes.
An ingrown toenail is a very common problem and they can also be very painful. At The Walking Clinic, we use many different methods to easily treat and prevent the recurrence of this frustrating problem
Conservative treatment – Our highly trained team of podiatrists can (in most cases) simply cut out the affected area of nail with minimal to no pain. This will leave the toe feeling much better straight away.
Surgical treatment – For toenails that will not improve after conservative treatment, we are able to perform a small, in house procedure to remove the affected piece of nail and prevent this from reccurring. This is procedure is performed under sterile conditions with the highest level of care taken to ensure that the nail does not become deformed or irregular.
Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults.
Plantar warts that appear on the sole of the foot tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well defined boundaries. They can grow into cluster and become painful if left unchecked.
Warts on the feet occur a lot in children as the body is building an immune system. Warts are a virus that lives in the body, this virus is called the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Warts can cause pain and are very contagious to others who previously have not had a wart. Once you have had a wart the body will know what it is and fight it before it becomes too large.
We have many different treatments for warts which we use to help the body fight the wart and prevent them coming back.
The team at The Walking Clinic are also able to provide helpful strategies that work to reduce the pressure and pain that warts cause.
Shoes should, above all, protect your child’s feet.
- Always have both feet measured for length and width
- The shoe should fit the natural shape of the foot especially around the toes
- The toe of the shoe should allow toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top to the sides. Make sure there is about 10mm growing room for children between the end of the
longest toe and the end of the shoe
- Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel and not be too loose or too tight
Check-up with a podiatrist is recommended if:
- You notice uneven shoe wear
- You notice any skin rashes, hard skin, lumps or bumps on your child’s feet
- Your child complains of recurrent pain in the feet and/or legs
- Your child is constantly tripping or falling
- Or you have any other concerns about your child’s feet.
Text reproduced with permission from the Australasian Podiatry Council