Many adult foot problems are rooted in childhood and could have been thwarted or prevented through proper foot care while growing up. Infant’s feet are very delicate and soft, and highly susceptible to deformities or injuries. The first year of a baby’s life is the most important in terms of foot growth and development. A child’s foot grows to half of its adult size in the first year. Any deformities or ailments should be treated immediately too avoid the future complications, such as leg or back pain, poor posture or gait, and feet and muscle distress. Children who suffer physically may also differ psychologically. A child who lives with foot pain or suffers with a deformity may avoid athletics and social functions as a result of feeling awkward. Wearing certain stylish shoes may be impossible due to the extent of the deformity. Many foot problems can be corrected if diagnosed and treated early.
When a child is emotionally and physically ready, he/she will walk. The age for walking ranges from 10 months to 18 months. Preferably, babies should go barefoot to allow for normal growth and muscle development of the foot, as well as the grasping movements of the toes. Socks should be worn for warmth but shoes are not necessary in the early stages. Only when the child starts to walk independently on a consistent basis should shoes be worn to avoid injury and offer support to the foot and ankle. Shoes should never be “handed down” from child to child.
As your child begins to walk, observe his/her walking patterns and check for the signs of in toeing, out toeing, knock knees, flat feet (after the age of three). Clubfeet is another condition that podiatrists often encounter. This is a relatively uncommon condition where the feet “turn-in” at birth and it can easily be corrected early on with serial (repetitive) casting and in the later stages, surgery. Your pediatrician should examine and monitor your child’s foot development on a regular basis and consult with a podiatrist if treatment is required.
Allow babies to move, kick and exercise their feet and legs. Feet should be covered loosely – tight covers restrict movement and retard development. Allow a baby to shift and change position frequently. Lying in one spot, especially on the stomach, adds excessive strain to the feet and legs.