Your Children's Feet
Parents and guardians can spend a fortune on their children’s teeth and dental health but rarely give much thought to their feet. This is unfortunate as you only get one set and when things go wrong it often affects other parts of the body… and replacement feet are still a long way off.
Neglecting foot health can unwittingly invite problems to areas such as the legs, knees, hips and back. There can also be effects to the child’s personality. The youngster with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually has poor general posture. As a result, the growing child may become shy, introverted, and avoid sports and social functions.
Consultation between the podiatrist, paediatrician, and at times other medical specialists helps to resolve these problems.
Your Baby's Feet
The human foot is a highly complicated structure. It has 26 bones, and is laced with ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Because the feet of young children are soft and pliable, abnormal pressure can easily cause deformities.
A child's feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half their adult foot size. This is why foot specialists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet.
Here are some suggestions to help you assure that this development proceeds normally:
- Look carefully at your baby's feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, seek professional care immediately. Deformities will not normally be outgrown or resolved without some intervention or advice
- Cover you baby's feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can retard normal development.
- Provide opportunities for exercising the feet. Babies lying uncovered enables them to kick and perform other related motions which prepare the feet for weightbearing later.
- Change your baby's position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.
Starting to Walk
It is unwise to try and force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since the age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months.
When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary while indoors. Allowing the youngster to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the very important grasping action of toes.
Of course, when walking outside things are not straightforward. Soft sand and grass are good for young feet, however, on rough surfaces, babies' feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear.
As a child's feet continue to develop, it may be necessary to change their sock and shoe size every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot problems result mainly from injury, deformity, illness, hereditary factors, improper footwear can also cause problems.
Shoes or other footwear should never be handed down.
The feet of young children can be unstable because of muscle problems which make walking difficult or uncomfortable.
A thorough examination by a podiatrist may detect an underlying issue or condition which may require immediate treatment or consultation with another specialist.
If you have a family history of foot problems, or there is something that you are just not quite sure about, make an appointment with Neil and get a professional opinion.
Without doubt sporting participation is a cornerstone of Australian culture. Whether it is within a team structure or as an individual sport, many of these operate outside the school curriculum where advice on conditioning and equipment is not always available.
Parents should become informed about their child’s involvement in any of the sports that require a substantial amount of running and turning, or involve contact. Protective taping of the ankles is often used to prevent sprains or fractures; however, this should not be seen a standard practice.
Parents should consider discussing these matters with their podiatrist if they have children participating in active sports.
Sports-related foot and ankle injuries are quite prevalent in our most played team sports: AFL football, Basketball, Soccer and Netball.
Tips for Children’s Feet
Problems noticed at birth will not usually disappear by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you've noticed earlier
Here are some of Neil’s tips:
- Remember that lack of complaint by a youngster is not a reliable sign. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.
- Walking is one of the best forms of foot exercise. Most of us as Podiatrists recommend that walking patterns be carefully observed. For instance…does the child toe in or out, do they have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be acted on if they are detected early.
- Going barefoot is a healthy activity for children under the right conditions. However, walking barefoot on dirty pavements exposes children's feet to the dangers of infection through accidental cuts and to severe contusions, sprains, or fractures.
- Another potential problem is plantar warts (actionable link to the removal), a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin. These warts can require protracted treatment and can keep children from school and other activities. Use thongs or a similar foot covering when around swimming pools or public showers.
- Be careful about applying home remedies to children's feet.
- Preparations strong enough to kill warts and certain types of fungus can actually cause harm or burns to the skin.