Tips for children’s foot health

On average, every person walks about 50,000 kilometers on foot in the course of his or her life. This distance corresponds approximately to a walk around the earth. In order to maintain the health of the foot for a lifetime, it is important to give the feet the necessary attention as early as in childhood. With regular foot care and attention the danger of permanent damage to the feet can be reduced effectively.

Dangers for the feet

The biggest dangers for the feet are inappropriate footwear, obesity and lack of exercise. If the conditions are unfavorable, then the development of the foot and gait pattern can be permanently disturbed. As a result, the muscles can shorten, the anatomy can change or the toe position can become worse.

How to find the right footwear

The main task of a children’s shoe is to protect them from external influences. The shoe should be comfortable, avoid injuries and protect from dirt and danger. The foot must not be restricted in its freedom of movement. The toes should have enough space and not be squeezes. The shoe must adapt to the movements of the foot and provide enough space for physiologic movement. The soles of the shoe need to be soft and flexible.

Regular barefoot walking as a prevention

The protective effect and the need for shoes is undisputed. However, it is necessary to walk barefoot regularly. Children exercise by barefoot walking and running all the foot related muscles. If muscles are not trained then the performance of gait might suffer. For this reason, parents should have their children walking barefoot on different surfaces for a defined period of time during the day.

Bow legs and Knock-knees can be normal

In the different stages of development, the leg position and the foot position change. The physiologic development of the axis of the legs changes from bowlegs to knock-knees during certain phases in childhood. Caution is advised when the children increasingly stumble over their own feet while running or if side differences are noticeable. At the age of 6 to 8 years the axes of the legs should be straight and symmetric. To clarify undesirable developments, a pediatric orthopedic doctor is the right person to contact.

Enormous growth in childhood

Children’s feet grow by up to three shoe sizes per year depending on their age and development. The growth is usually in spurts. It is normal that children have the same shoe size over several months and the foot then suddenly grows by one or two shoe sizes. In order to prevent surprises, parents should regularly, for example once a month, measure their children’s feet. When the shoes are worn every day, it is checked whether there is enough space between the tip of the big toe and the shoe. In this case, the shoe fits the toddler perfectly. The child’s foot should be checked on a daily basis to allow to find bruises, blisters, overuse symptoms, injuries or other unexpected developments.

Basic rules for the purchase and usage of children’s shoes

Children’s shoes are usually square or round shaped. Tight and too narrow shoes should be avoided for toddlers because the toes in this footwear do not get enough freedom. Anti-slip soles provide the necessary support, even in wet weather and on slippery surfaces. Rubber boots are water repellent and suitable for autumn days. Soft upper leather with a cuddly filling is the right choice on the winter walk. Socks with a high percentage of cotton support the beneficial effect of breathability of natural shoe materials in children shoes. On the other hand, when it comes to water-repellent Goretex shoes, a high proportion of synthetics is required. If shoes are moist after day usage and sweating enough time for drying during the night should be given. Daily change of used socks is important. The weight of the shoes should be rather light than heavy. The lighter the shoes are, the more the muscles are relieved. For the summer light footwear, such as sandals or sports shoes are ideal. Regularly check the inner sole and inside the shoe to avoid little stones, nails and other unpleasant foreign bodies to disturb your child’s gait pattern and comfort. High heels in children are generally not recommended as those are interfering with the foot stability, increasing injury risk and forefoot overload.

Several studies have found that almost every third child wears shoes that are too small. Unlike adolescents and adults, infants rarely express their discomfort in this regard. The sensitivity is reduced in the foot area, since the bones are still relatively deformable and the nervous system has to develop even further. The foot adapts to the shoe and wearing after a short time is no longer perceived as unpleasant. Only at the age of 14 to 16 the development of the feet is completed. The parents must therefore make sure that the shoe is suitable for the foot.