You worry about your children’s teeth, eyes, and other parts of the body. You teach washing, brushing, and grooming, but what do you do about your child’s feet—those still-developing feet which have to carry the entire weight of their body through a lifetime?
Many adult foot ailments, like other bodily ills, have their origins in childhood and are present at birth. That’s why it’s important that your child’s feet get regular check-ups. Ongoing pediatric foot care can minimize these problems in later life.
Neglecting foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. There can also be undesirable effects on 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 athletics and social functions.
Your Baby’s Feet
The human foot—one of the most complicated parts of the body—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 be outgrown by themselves.
- Cover your baby’s feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can retard normal development.
- Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions which prepare the feet for bearing weight.
- Change the 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 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 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 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.
Children’s Feet Tips
- Problems noticed at birth will not disappear by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you’ve noticed earlier.
- 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 the best of all foot exercises, according to podiatrists. They also recommend that walking patterns be carefully observed. Does the child toe in or out, have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected 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, a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin. They require protracted treatment and can keep children from school and other activities.