“If you have a poor foundation you will have structural problems throughout the building, and the same can be said about a child’s growth and development. If there are problems with the structure and/or movement of the feet (biomechanics), a child can develop foot stress fractures and pain in the ankles, knees and hips. It can have further effects, such as lower back pain and even headaches,” Anthony says.
A child’s foot is not a mini version of an adult’s foot.
The shape of children’s feet is not finally determined until growth ceases around the age of twenty.
So recognising the early signs of poor foot biomechanics, and having early diagnosis and treatment by a podiatrist, offers the best chance of correcting a young person’s foot problems early, avoiding more debilitating problems later.
In fact, many adult foot problems could be prevented through early intervention in childhood.
Little feet have a big job to do.
Children’s feet are subjected to far more stress than that experienced by the average adult foot. In fact, the stress on a child’s foot can be 3 times the stress experienced by adult feet.
So there are manyproblems that are specific to children’s feet, which is why it’s so important to see a podiatrist, like Anthony, who is experienced with children’s feet.
Sometimes the best shoe for little kids is no shoe at all.
When children are first learning to walk it’s important for them to go barefoot as much as possible. That’s because a child receives important sensory information from the soles of their feet, which isessential to help them develop balance, coordination and posture.
Shoes, particularly those with hard, inflexible soles, can make walking more difficult. For toddlers, shoes are only needed to protect them from sharp objects, so look for soft-soled ‘pre-walker’ shoes.
The wrong pair of shoes now can cause problems later.
Children’s feet grow quickly and shoes that are too tight can hamper your child’s walking and cause problems, such as ingrown toenails and bunions.
Young children’s feet have more cartilage than bone. This means they are very flexible and can be easily squeezed into a badly fitting or incorrectly sized shoe without you or the child noticing. And the soft cartilage can easily be bent out of shape, causing a whole range of other problems.
Once children are walking, their feet need to be professionally measured every couple of monthsup to the age of three, every four months up to five years and every six months from five years. And this means lots of new shoes! And yes this can be costly, but not as expensive as treating a serious foot problem in later life.
Width matters just as much as length.
Children’s feet differ vastly in width and forcing a foot into a shoe that is too narrow can cause problems later. That’s why a measurement should take into account width as well as length, and why good children’s shoe manufacturers have shoes in a range of different widths for each size.
Little girls may like high heels. Their feet don’t.
High heels aren’t particularly good for grown ups, but they are truly terrible for little children! Not only do high heels distort their center of balance, making falls and twisted ankles more likely, the unnatural position that the foot is forced into places undue stress on the ball of the footand can shorten tendons and cause bunions. As a general rule, children’s shoes should be lightweight and flexible, supporting the heel and arch.
Hand me down clothes are fine. Hand me down shoes are not.
Every foot is unique and once a foot has been wearing a shoe for a while it tends to mould that shoe to fit its shape. To put that shoe on another childs foot is asking for trouble!
Playing sport can play havoc with children’s feet.
While sport is fantastic for children, it can be hard on their feet. Preschoolers should have a sports shoe that is as flexible as their own foot. During school age the connective tissue gains stability. The growing amount of sports activities, much of which is performed on hard indoor surfaces, means sports shoes require more cushioning.
Protective taping of the ankles is often necessary to prevent sprains or fractures. Parents should consider discussing these matters with their podiatrist if they have children participating in sports.
If your child is suffering any pain while playing sport, or finds sport difficult, it may be the result of an underlying foot problem. Early treatment will not only solve the problem, it can do wonders for a child’s self-confidence.
As well as holding a coaching certificate, Anthony is experienced treating sportsmen and women of all ages, including children.
When to seek help.
When children start walking they often have a strange gait, and usually this is nothing to worry about. In fact, most toddlers, when they first start to walk, are flat-footed or tend to turn their feet inwards because the muscles and ligaments of their feet are underdeveloped. This usually corrects itself as the child gets older. However if your child suffers from any of the following problems, then you do need to get help. (And remember, a small problem now is usually easily treated. But if you leave it too long, it can easily become a big
Early signs of poor foot biomechanics in children and teens can include frequent tripping over, seeming clumsy, tiring easily, and having painful legs, especially if the pain wakes them during the night, and pronated feet (feet that ‘roll in).
Some other indications that your child may need help are:
- If your child isn’t walking by 2
- Ingrown toenails, bunions or other deformities
- Limping or any lopsided gait
- Heel pain
- The foot feels stiff rather than flexible
- Severe in-toeing or out-toeing
- If your child has flat feet after 5 years of age
- Any noticeable change in the way your child walks.