There’s a lot to think about when it comes to children, and this can sometimes feel overwhelming. Caring for their precious feet is one significant thing you can do for them that may prevent other health problems; now and later in life. Usually born with perfect feet, children are vulnerable to deformity while their soft cartilage is turning into bone. Your child’s foot is very different to your own, and if looked after properly, means you can worry about them a little less!
Widest across the toes, a child’s foot is softer and more pliable, rounder and plumper and narrowest at the heel. Children develop at different rates, therefore you should always let them develop walking skills and confidence at their own pace. Shoes should not be worn at all until they can walk, so try to avoid pram shoes. I remember I wore a bonnet at that age, so try that! It did look insanely adorable.
Little feet are vulnerable to deformity from any ill-fitting footwear until the bones are completely formed at around 18 years of age. Because of this, walking barefoot (where safe) is actually good for them. I remember the feeling of walking free and shoeless on beautifully soft grass – those were the days!
Typically, a child’s arch does not develop until puberty. With babies, the arch will usually not be visible or developed for the first two years, and even then it is not a fully developed arch. In the early years of childhood, there is often a ‘fat’ pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot, though this is not the case — it is a natural arch support. You may notice your child’s foot turning in, due to the fact that the foot arch has not yet fully developed. This is normal, but if they begin to complain about pain, they should have it looked at.
After the age of three, look for shoes that include some type of arch support or high-quality foot bed, a well-defined heel contour, padded collars and flexibility and durability. Go to a reputable shop where feet can be measured and fitted correctly. Good shoe stores will measure your children’s feet periodically; they are constantly growing, so don’t be afraid to ask for regular fittings. Quality shoes are an investment – the shape of the shoe and especially the toe area should be wide and round, allowing for tiny toes to move, spread and … twinkle!
Some footwear features are an option for adults, but having a shoe lace or buckle is important for children – without this, their toes will claw to hold the shoe on! The heel of the shoe should not be too high, or foot deformity may result. As a general rule, fitted socks made from natural materials are much better than stretch-fit socks. And don’t forget the toenails! Just like yours, your child’s toenails will grow rather quickly and should be cut regularly. The cut should be straight across and not too short, to avoid ingrown toenails.
Your child is invaluable, and so are the ever-changing vessels that carry them from A to B. You will be there for them throughout the years, watching them evolve before your eyes. Children can be complex and unpredictable, but one thing you can predict is the health of their feet. Make the effort now, and reap the long-term rewards in their health, happiness and zest for life.