It is no secret that parents worry about their children, especially when choosing and buying their footwear. Unfortunately, there is a minefield of possible future problems if it goes wrong, horror stories told by elderly relatives and friends due to a lifetime of poorly fitting shoes as a child! Well, there can inevitably be problems, but they can be prevented by bearing a few things in mind when choosing your child’s footwear.
- Comfort and security – Opt for fastenings such as laces, velcro or t-bars to allow the foot to sit in one place. A large amount of movement in the shoes may cause rubbing, toenail issues or even toes that curl to grip the shoes.
- Wide bases – Wide shoe bases allow support, stability, and heels that are not too high help prevent sprained ankles.
- Natural materials – This includes leather or any breathable materials like Gore-Tex; this allows your feet to be at a comfortable temperature to allow air to circulate and prevent infection.
- Firm heel cups – It is vital to check that the heel cups are strong and will not collapse; this assists in holding the foot correctly in the shoe when moving.
- Durable soles – Durable soles with decent grips to prevent injury from slipping, especially on wet pavements and grassy verges.
- Room – The shoes should match the child’s anatomy but with room for changes in the foot dimension with activity and growth; generally, it’s best to allow 1cm from the end of the longest toe.
- Flexibility – This is a vital component for many activities, especially at the forefoot. It helps with forward movement, such as walking, running and jumping.
- Grip – The shoe should securely hold the instep to prevent it from slipping off the foot while still allowing for natural movement as the arch rises and falls during walking.
What are some of the most common foot problems in children?
Some of the most common foot problems that occur among children are:
True flat foot is a condition in which the arches of the feet do not develop properly, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into contact with the ground when standing; this can cause discomfort and pain when walking or active. Flat feet among children are typically a temporary problem that they will grow out of; however, this may not be the case if your child has a paediatric flatfoot deformity. This is different from the temporary variation of flat feet and will often require treatment to prevent pain, discomfort and difficulty walking.
Plantar Warts (verrucae) –
A verruca is an infection of the foot caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Most commonly, they are found on the soles of the foot and can be uncomfortable and painful when walking. They are highly contagious, meaning they are easily spread from infected skin-to-skin or surface-to-skin contact. Most commonly, verrucae are associated with being transmitted from public spaces such as swimming pools and gyms.
Sever’s Disease (Calcaneal Apophysitis or Growing Pains) –
Sever’s disease is a temporary condition in which the growth plate of the heel bone becomes inflamed and thus painful. The growth plates of children are vulnerable to injury, meaning that active children involved with sports are more susceptible to Sever’s disease from repetitive stress, trauma or injury.
Toe Walking –
When children learn to walk, they will often begin by only walking on the balls of their feet rather than the natural heel-to-toe gait pattern. While common in early walkers, persistent toe walking can cause issues in the feet and may need to be professionally managed.
Intoeing (Pigeon Toes) –
Some children will have a natural inward rotation of their feet when walking. This is a common problem and will, in most cases, rectify as they age; however, if the problem persists, medical attention may be required to prevent future pain and problems.
Not all children will experience foot issues, and most will resolve as the child grows. However, buying the correct shoes and preventing future problems is always better than treating them later.
You should, wherever possible, buy shoes from somewhere with well-trained fitters in-store who can measure your child’s feet and fit shoes properly. Make use of The Children’s Foot Health Register to help you find one. However, if this is not possible, most online stores can send instructions for parents to follow to get an optimal fitting. Furthermore, you should consider checking the feet daily for pain, blisters, sores, rubs and toenail issues and remember to also check inside the shoes for wear marks. Also, allowing your child to go barefoot as much as possible at home can aid the natural development of their feet!
If you suspect your child may have a problem with their feet, contact us today to book an appointment. We are a child-friendly clinic and can help keep your little one pain-free.