Get expert insight on your child’s foot development.
When it comes to your child’s foot development, you can rest assured that you are getting the best care. While babies and children can develop foot and ankle problems in the womb or early in development, injuries can also occur while your child is learning to walk.
- Many childhood foot problems are congenital
- Care approaches differ between adults and children
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Your Baby’s Feet
Both the size and shape of your child’s feet change quickly during the first year of life. Because a baby’s feet are flexible, too much pressure or strain can affect the shape of the foot. To help ensure normal growth, allow your baby to kick and stretch his or her feet. Also, make sure shoes and socks don’t squeeze toes.
Talk with the doctor if you are concerned about your baby’s feet. Many infants have feet that appear to turn in. The shape of the foot changes as your child grows. Your child’s doctor may suggest a gentle stretching exercise to aid proper development.
Your Toddler’s Feet
Your toddler will walk when he or she is ready. Watch your child’s gait once he or she does begin to walk. Does the toe touch down instead of the heel? Does your child always sit while others play actively? If so, talk with the doctor. If your toddler’s feet are fat, flat, and floppy – don’t worry. This is usually normal, and most problems are outgrown.
When Foot Care is Needed
- During a foot care exam, the doctor will watch your toddler walk. If a gait problem exist, the doctor works to identify the cause.
- To help with severe flat feet, special shoes or orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts) may be prescribed.
- To correct mild toeing-in, your toddler may need to sit in a different position while playing or watching TV.
- If your child’s feet turn in or out a lot, corrective shoes, splints, or night braces may be prescribed. Wearing these devices can help the foot as it grows.
Your Child’s Active Feet:
The foot’s bone structure is pretty well formed by the time your child reaches ages 7 and 8. But if a growth plate (the area where bone growth begins) is injured, the damaged plate may cause the bone to grow oddly. With a doctor’s care, however, the risk of future bone problems are reduced.
When to Call the Doctor:
If an injury is mild, your child probably will not remember it for very long. But if your child keeps complaining of pain, have the injury checked by a doctor. Also, call the doctor anytime an injury causes serious swelling, localized tenderness, limping, or ongoing night pains. Your child may need to use crutches to take weight off the injury as it heals. If there is a fracture, a cast, splint, or brace may be needed to hold the bone in place while it heals.
If the Shoe Fits:
If your child’s feet grow correctly and stay healthy, foot problems are less likely later in life. For healthier young feet, be sure your child’s shoes fit. Outline your child’s foot when he or she is standing. Place the shoe over the tracing to see if the shoe is big enough to hold the foot comfortably. When possible, have your child’s feet measured at a shoe store.
- Check your child’s shoe size often make sure there is space between the toes and the end of the shoe. Wearing shoes that are too small cramps the foot. This may affect foot function.
- Don’t let your child wear hand-me-down shoes, because most shoes mold to the foot. Wearing hand-me-downs can affect the shape of your child’s feet.