A vital aspect of your children’s health and well-being is their feet. Your feet make up a complicated part of the body and more so in young children’s feet as they are soft and pliable. Excessive pressure can lead to deformities. During foot development, it is important for bones, muscles, blood vessels and nerves to have room to grow without restriction. It is key to know the necessary foot care tips to ensure that your kids start off right and have as normal a foot as possible.
When a toddler stands up and takes the first tentative steps, the muscles of the feet grip the floor and the toes separate to help the child have better balance and control. If the feet are confined within a rigid shoe, the toes cannot operate in this way, nor can the muscles of the foot and ankle develop the strength necessary to hold them upright.
Throughout a lifetime, foot health depends upon the flexibility of the structures involved. This begins in infancy and continues as we grow. If we wear rigid shoes, the bones cannot move freely, resulting eventually in crippling arthritis.
“My feet hurt mommy!” With school back in swing, the lessons, sports and other extra curricular activities are back. Parents and kids alike are in most cases excited to be back but the increase in hours and activities could cause pains. It can be excruciating for some children to the point they cannot walk properly.
Ailments Kids Experience
Calcaneal Apophysitis (Hurting Heels)
This is the medical term for inflammation of the growth plate in the heel; caused by the pull of the plantar fascia below it, and the Achilles tendon above it. As we grow, the bones in the legs get longer, but the muscles and tendons have to stretch to grow with them. If these structures are tight and have not reached the same length as the bones, then they pull much harder on the growth plates. This causes significant pain that usually occurs after activity and improves with rest. Other symptoms include swelling of the heels and pain when pressure is placed.
Warts are a virus. They are about as preventable as a cold! How to prevent them? Heading my list is protection of your children’s feet by having them wear flip flops around locker rooms and showers as far as possible.
It’s created by fungus in a moist environment. Using protective foot wear is also applicable. Make sure your kids properly dry between their toes after bathing. The use of an anti-fungal spray for their foot wear would help to contain bacteria.
This is the most common ailment in kids and may be hereditary. Flexible flat foot or a pronated foot in children is usually painless in young children, but may cause an ache, especially in the overweight or older child. In very young children, there is often a ‘fat pad’ in the arch area of the foot which gives an appearance of a flat foot, when it is not. If the foot also rolls inward at the ankle (pronates), then this may be cause for concern. In the majority of cases, most will grow out of it, but some do not. Treatment with foot orthotics is indicated if it’s severe.
Overly-tight shoes are the leading cause of Hallux Valgus (Bunions), which occurs when the big toe begins to angle sideways in the direction of the second toe, causing a bump or bunion on the side of the foot.
Footwear and Deformities
A new study of 250 children in Switzerland presented by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found that a vast majority of young children are wearing shoes that are too small, increasing the risk of foot deformities.
When a child is walking most of the day by themselves, it is time the child gets a pair of shoes to protect their feet. This can be between seven months and two years. Leather is also the only material to conform to the shape of the foot and stay there, thus making the best possible fit. This is why shoes should never be passed down to another child!
Children’s feet grow in fits and start during infancy, and can grow by a half size in a matter of weeks. It’s therefore advisable to have shoes checked after eight weeks to see if they still fit. . By the time the child is three years old, the intervals may stretch to 6 months. One sign that a toddler’s shoes may be getting too tight is if they frequently take them off or if they cause them to trip.
Admittedly this time in the child’s development can be an expensive one! However this is money well spent; don’t be tempted to make shoes last longer or revert to badly made self-fitted footwear, as your investment in the future will pay dividends!
Advice for Parents
Problems noticed at birth will not always disappear by themselves. Don’t wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you’ve noticed earlier. It is best to take action when the child is a toddler to ensure better responsiveness to treatment options. Remember that lack of complaint by a youngster is not a reliable sign. Because the bones of growing feet are so flexible, they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.
Does the child toe in or out; have ‘knock knees,’ or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early. With the exception of infancy, going barefoot is not to be encouraged among children. Walking barefoot on dirty pavements exposes children’s feet to a variety of dangers including infection through accidental cuts, sprains or fractures. Be careful about applying home remedies to their feet. Preparations strong enough to kill certain types of fungus can harm their skin.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!