Children’s Feet – Are You Being Fair?

Those pitter patter feet become adult feet and it is very important to make sure you give them a good start.

From the time your child is born they are given the framework for adult feet. When we look at their feet they look exactly like ours but a whole lot smaller. We even consider them to be cute. SO this empowers us to go out and buy cute shoes. Unfortunately, “cute” shoes while looking lovely on our children’s feet has the potential to be very harmful. Why?

Our feet are a highly complexed structure which comprises of 26 bones,Our feet are a highly complexed structure which comprises of 26 bones, working together with 19 muscles and numerous tendons and ligaments to assist with the ability to walk, run, skip and play. Children need to be able to do these things to enhance their growth but if the shoe they are doing it in is ill fitting or restrictive it causes damage that can be irreparable. Children’s feet do not fuse until the approximate age of 18 years. This soft cartilage becomes harder. This process of conversion is called ossification. It is a very gradual process.

We can not look at the foot without mentioning the legs as they are connected and the ability for the foot to function. Hence abnormality in the foot and its function reflects on posture and walking and running styles of our children. As with anything we do it is always necessary to have a good foundation and if the child’s foot is being ill treated it can result in not only damage to the feet but poor postures and running and walking styles which can result in injuries. When we as Podiatrists treat children we look the growth, weight gain, postural changes, and activities which is usually seen as an over use situation.

It is sports term. We all want our children to do well and most of all enjoy themselves. So now we can appreciate the need for taking the time to assess the child’ foot; and pay attention to their situation carefully before purchasing footwear.

Here are some general tips to consider from birth:

  • We are lucky to live in a warn climate, there is no need for tight wool booties and total body suits as an infant, leave the feet free for as long as possible.
  • A sandal is preferred instead of a slipper, because it helps with their dexterity and aids the gait process of the child if they do not have to deal with trying to keep a shoe on their feet. Children’s shoes should be held together with laces, straps or Velcro.
  • If it is possible to have both feet measured do so for the width and length. Just remember that when asking someone to buy shoes for your child draw around the child’s foot and send it to them, as shoe sizes vary from shoe style and manufacturer. If you really look at a child’s foot the shape is comparable to a triangle as opposed to an adult foot which is more like a square.
  • Shoes with a heel height no higher than 4cm and a broad base are recommended. This fashion era, heralds’ children’s shoes with high heels and platforms. Again while cute they can cause severe injury to the child’s foot. With the platform shoes the ankle injuries tend to be significant. Similarly heeled shoe styles can do more harm than good as the child’s foot is not fully developed.Shoes with leather uppers are always nicer especially in this climate it allows the sweat to escape better. Sandals are even better until they have to go in to an enclosed shoe. Shoes too tight and made of plastics and nylon and rubbers tend to encourage foot problems because the perspiration does not escape easily.
  • Always look at the natural shape of the child’s foot. Some feet are square, some round; some narrow some broad especially at the toes.
  • The toe box of the shoe should allow free movement of the toes, and they should not be squashed, a child may not say that it is too tight they may just learn to accept it and adapt. Part of the reason that they end of with foot problems later. Allow at least 18 mm for growth room between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel and not be too loose or tight.
  • Socks that are too small or tight can also cause problems, which are similar to shoes that are too tight. Always make sure there is adequate room in the toe area. Never encourage the folding over of the socks in the shoes this can also be damaging to the foot, as it forms a large bulge under the foot during the developmental years. It will be better to buy a sock low in the sock.

It is sports term. We all want our children to do well and most of all enjoy themselves. Lets take a few minutes to look at some tips that can help with making sure they are injury free. Sneakers can play a great role in assisting children and their natural abilities.

But it is important that the sports shoes are:

  • Appropriate for the sport and for children most of the time a cross trainer will suffice as they take part in so many different activities. But if they are just doing one sport then accessing sneakers for that sport maybe best.
  • Make sure the length and width for the child’s foot is appropriate. Just because it is a hand me down or looks cute does not mean it is for your child. The shoe length should be at least 8mms over the longest toes of the child’s foot. If it is available having their foot measured is best.
  • Socks should fit with the seams in the correct positions. While running it will be very uncomfortable to have slippage. But most children do not consider this to be a problem therefore the onus is on you the parent to make sure the fit is good. The heel sit in the heel of the sock and the toe seams sits to the front of the toe area.
  • Check their footwear for abnormal wear. The wear pattern should be between the back of the heel and the outside or to the back of the heel. The mid area of the sneaker should not collapse inward. These are things that can be further investigated to enhance a healthy fit.
  • Sweaty feet can encourage bacteria and poor nail cutting can invite ingrown toenails. Keep nails cut to an appropriate length that is not over the front of toe and not too short either.

Running and playing sporting activities barefooted is very common. It is NOT the method of choice. It can be the cause of problems with children’s knees and backs later due to the lack of shock absorption when the foot hits the ground at a greater speed than walking. Because their foot is not fully developed it can cause undue stresses to the joints and bony impression for further development. One may say but my child has been running for a while with out shoes and performs better that ever. Not all problems show up now. But it may present itself later.

Making sure the sneaker is appropriate can be tricky. One of the best things to do is to ask the store assistant for a sports specific sneaker. Or seek the advice of a Podiatrist for assistance with your choices. It is important to make sure the sneakers are performance sneakers and not dress sneakers which should only be used for style.

Always remember that fashion feet are not necessarily happy feet and once our children’s feet are happy they are happy and so are we. Keep fashion for the developed foot adult foot.

By Simone McConnie (Nee Lorde) BSc Pod Med Podiatrist