Whether it is a precious baby’s first steps or a quick-maneuvering teenager’s winning soccer goal, healthy feet and sure-footedness make milestones in child’s life possible. Starting at birth, paying close attention to your little one’s feet from proper grooming to gait will ensure a solid foundation as your youngster grows. After all, their feet are meant to last a lifetime!
Your Baby’s Feet
The human foot—one of the most complicated parts of the body—has 26 bones, including an intricate system of ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Because the feet of young children are soft and pliable, abnormal body forces can cause deformities.
A child’s feet grow rapidly during the first year. For this reason, podiatric physicians, also known as podiatrists, consider this period to be the most critical stage of the foot’s development.
Here are some suggestions to help ensure normal development:
- Look carefully at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, contact an APMA podiatric physician. Many deformities will not correct themselves if left untreated.
- Keep your baby’s feet unrestricted. No shoes or booties are necessary for infants. These can restrict movement and can inhibit toes and feet from normal development.
- Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions that prepare the feet for weight bearing.
- Change the baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot can put excessive strain on the feet and legs. Be sure to limit how much time your baby spends standing in an activity center to no more than15 minutes at a time.
Baby’s First Shoes
It is ill-advised to force a child to walk. When physically and mentally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since the age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months. When a baby first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. As a toddler, walking barefoot allows the youngster’s foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. Of course, when walking outside or on rough surfaces, babies’ feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear made of natural materials.
Walking Warning Signs
Once your baby is on the move, assess your child’s walking pattern or gait. It is not uncommon for little ones to walk on their toes. However, persistent toe-walking is not normal. An APMA podiatric physician can examine a child to make a proper diagnosis and determine the best treatment option. Abnormal walking, including toe-walking, can lead to foot and ankle problems later in life. Flat footedness beyond the early years can lead to bunions, hammertoes, heel pain and tendon problems. Children with a family history of foot problems should see a podiatric physician once the child begins walking to ensure the feet are developing normally.
Other common childhood walking irregularities include in-toeing and metatarsus adductus (MTA). In-toeing occurs when one or both feet point toward the other due to a rotation in the foot, leg, thigh or hip. Often children will sit on their legs in a W-shaped position. This can also cause feet to point inward. Excessive tripping, like many walking irregularities, can often reveal a more serious condition such as in-