We always want what’s best for our children. The scary part is that sometimes we don’t know exactly what that is.
When it comes to children’s foot care, there can be a lot more to consider than many parents initially believe. Even feet that have seen little to no real mileage yet can still benefit from good decisions, or run into challenges from common mistakes or misconceptions.
Now, you shouldn’t go through life afraid that every little decision you make is going to have potentially dire consequences for your child. That’s good for neither them nor you!
What you should do is keep in mind some general guidelines when it comes to the way we treat our children’s feet. That way, it’s easier to act appropriately and in the best interests of seeing those feet grow to a stable and comfortable adulthood.
So, from babies to adolescents, let’s take a look at some of the things parents can do better for their children’s feet.
Don’t Put Your Baby in Shoes Too Early
Baby shoes tend to be a milestone for many doting parents, but there is such thing as being in too much of a rush to get those little feet inside a pair.
If your baby has not started walking, they do not need to have shoes. They do not help your child learn to walk, and their primary purposes center more around protection than anything else.
In fact, if shoes are rather rigid, they can interfere with your baby’s mobility and make learning to walk more difficult.
Before your little one starts crawling and learning to walk, socks and booties are perfectly fine for warmth. Once they start crawling, bare feet are still fine. But when warmth or cleanliness is required, socks with non-skid soles are ideal.
Get the Right Shoes for Growing Feet
Little feet grow very quickly. That means you should be investing in shoes that grow along with them!
Shoes that become too small for growing feet will again restrict mobility, but they will also tend to crowd the toes together. This is a common cause of ingrown toenails, and why they seem to be more frequent in many younger individuals.
Children’s feet will vary, but here are some general guidelines on growth rates:
- Children from 1-3 years of age tend to grow a half or full shoe size every 4 months.
- Children from 4-6 years of age tend to grow a half or full shoe size every 4-5 months.
- Children from 7-10 years of age tend to grow a half or full shoe size every 5-6 months.
- Children from 11-17 years of age tend to grow a half or full shoe size every 6 months.
For most children between these ages, that means getting new shoes at least twice per year. If you’re waiting a full year between shoes, you are likely waiting too long.
Some parents try to “game the system” by buying shoes that are a larger than their child needs and letting them grow into them. This is not wise. Shoes that start out too big can be difficult to walk in, with a back that consistently slides against and irritates the heel. They can even be dangerous if they trip up your child while running!
Keep Track of Your Child’s Walking Habits (but Don’t Stress Out!)
While your child is learning to walk and finding their stride, you may see various methods of moving about you just didn’t expect to see.
Your child might often walk on their tip-toes, for example, or walk with toes pointing inward or outward.
You might see their arches vanish when they’re standing, only to re-appear when they sit down or rise up on their toes, like some sort of strange magic trick.
These kinds of sights tend to be natural in growing children, and are not too much cause for concern—but they should not be ignored, either.
Most children grow out of their flat feet or walking quirks as they develop. However, if these abnormalities are not going away as your child ages, steps may need to be taken to help ensure they don’t cause problems in adulthood.
If you start seeing something in your child’s feet or the way they walk, do not hesitate to contact us and let us know about it. We can provide advice on what to watch for, as well as schedule check-ups to make sure those feet and ankles are developing as they should.
Do Not Go Down Slides with Your Child
We know this one feels strangely specific, but there is good reason for it.
Going down a slide with your child can be fun, or you might want to encourage them if it’s their first time taking it on. However, there is more risk of injury if you take the ride with them than if not.
When going down a slide, it can be easy for your child’s foot to catch against the side of the incline. If this happens and your weight is coming down the slide with them, it can cause the leg to twist and even break.
Is it a freak accident? Yes, but one that happens more regularly than you may think. In a 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, researchers studied 58 shin fractures in children with an average age of about 20 months. Of those fractures, eight of them occurred when the child was going down a slide in the lap of a parent.
If your child is not ready to go down the slide yet, don’t push it. Or, as an alternative, lift them up to the halfway point of the slide and let them go down on their own.
Expert Care Every Step of the Journey
You’re not expected to know everything as a parent. That’s why having the support of a community can help so much!
If you ever have concerns about your child’s foot or ankle health, give our Berkeley office a call at (510) 647-3744. We are more than happy to provide the care and guidance to give your child a firm foundation into adulthood.