A Lifetime of Healthy Feet Starts in Childhood
Making sure your children always wear properly fitted shoes with adequate support is the basis of ensuring you are helping their feet to develop properly. Even if your child doesn’t exhibit signs of foot and ankle problems, you need to be aware that the feet of young children are soft and pliable, so abnormal pressures can easily cause the foot to deform. The foot of a child grows rapidly during the first year, making that first year very important in the development of the feet. Many foot and ankle problems in adults can be traced to foot issues in childhood.
Shoe fit is critical in the proper development of your child’s feet. Your child needs to wear a shoe that is both long enough and wide enough to allow the foot to grow and develop properly. When purchasing a shoe, you should have about half the length of an adult thumb between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The shoe box should be wide and either square or slightly rounded so that toes do not have pressure of the shoe on either side of the foot. For first time walkers, a flexible shoe is important so that they can maintain the flexibility of their foot and ankle while protecting their feet.
If your child exhibits any of these common signs of foot and ankle problems, you should call our office to have them evaluated in order to insure that they have healthy feet both now and as they mature:
Flat Feet – Infants and toddlers have flat looking feet initially as the arch does not develop until they are standing on their toes and walking. Most cases of flat looking feet in very young children do resolve as they develop. If your child is 2 years or older and you are seeing the appearance of flat feet along with the ankle rolling either in or out, it is time to call our office for an evaluation.
Toes Pointed Inward or Outward – As with flat feet, in-toeing and out-toeing are very common with infants and toddler, but tend to improve with time. If your child still exhibits in-toeing or out-toeing, one foot that turns in or out more than the other or limping then it is time to call our office for an evaluation.
Persistent Tripping – Tripping is normal for new walkers, but as a child’s strength and stability improve so should their tripping. If your child continues to experience persistent tripping after age 2, it is time to call our office for an evaluation.
Bulging Ankles – In infants and toddlers, there are signs of what appears to be ankle bulging that is actually normal. Ankle bulging in children over 3 and especially in adolescents should be evaluated as that can be the sign of problems that need to be treated. Call our office for an evaluation if you are seeing this symptom in pre-teen or teen.
Bowed Legs – At birth, all infants have a small degree of bowing due to their position in the womb. Normally by age 2 children will have outgrown this issue. If your child continues to exhibit bowing after age 3, it is time to call our office to have an evaluation of their feet and ankles.
In-grown Toe Nails – In-grown toe nails are very common in children and can cause considerable pain if not treated immediately. You may notice your child limping, walking oddly, complaining of pain or notice redness and swelling at the spot where the nail meets the corner of the skin on the big toe. These can become infected if left untreated. In order to avoid in-grown toe nails on your child you should trim the nails straight across and not too short. They should wear properly fitted shoes that do not squeeze the toes and socks that are not too tight. If your child develops an in-grown toe nail it is wise to call our office so that we can treat it and give you direction in techniques for trimming the nails to avoid future problems.
Knock Knees – As with many of the other foot and ankle disorders, knock knee is a normal part of development and generally starts around age 2 and reaches its peak around 4 years of age. You should expect that this will disappear by age 6 or 7. If the condition extends past age 7 or if the problem is accompanied by knee, foot or ankle pain, excessive tripping or the appearance that knee appears different than the other then you should call our office for an evaluation.
Plantar Warts – Children often get plantar warts on the soles of their feet. Schools, pools, gymnasiums, locker rooms and other places that are warm, moist and have barefoot children are prime locations to pick up the virus that causes a plantar wart. These are more prevalent in children than adults as we develop an immunity to this virus as we age. Plantar warts are often painful and uncomfortable when standing or walking. Treatment of a plantar wart is easier the smaller the wart is, therefore, it is a good idea to check the soles of your child’s foot frequently especially if they are in environments where they are potentially exposed. The safest and most effective treatment is to have an evaluation by Dr. Thomas and follow his recommendations based on an evaluation of the specific child. Should you see signs of plantar warts on your child’s foot, call our office for an evaluation and treatment plan.
Abnormal Shoe Wear – The wear patterns of children’s shoes are an important indicator of any foot and ankle problems. Shoes should wear evenly and patterns seen on children’s shoes will provide valuable clues to biomechanical problems. If you have concerns arising from the wear patterns of your child’s shoes, contact our office for a visit to evaluate their gate and over all foot and ankle health.