Caring for Growing Toes
Baby feet are different from adult ones. When a child is first born, the bones in the feet are not fully formed. Instead they are made of soft cartilage that will be replaced by hard tissue later. By school age the bones should be mostly hardened, though the limbs aren’t considered completely developed until they stop growing in the later teen years. The structure is undeveloped as well. Baby feet are wide and have relatively flat arches. Walking and growing helps mold the arch and shape the foot, as well as strengthen the attached muscles.
Toddlers generally have an awkward gait. Some slight intoeing or toe walking is normal at that age. The arch development may not be visible, because of a thick fatty pad in the midfoot area. Generally children grow out of any gait abnormalities and the arch becomes more visible after a few years. Significant or persistent intoeing, toe walking, and flat feet, however, may signal a problem and should be evaluated.
Investing in Healthy Toes
Good child foot care is key for establishing healthy habits and avoiding preventable injuries later in your little one’s life. You want the best for your child, so you should take care of their lower limbs. That involves basic care and good footwear. You should also have your child’s feet evaluated by professionals like Dr. Evan Merrill and Dr. Adam Gerber to check for potential problems, especially if any walking difficulties exist.
Wash and thoroughly dry your baby’s feet regularly. Check the lower limbs for sores or other problems, too—even if their feet are uncomfortable, children may not be able to express exactly what is bothering them. Clip the toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails. You should also tickle and play with your baby’s toes and let your small children walk in bare feet while indoors as much as possible. This works the muscles and connective tissues, strengthening them so that they’ll be more stable.
Footwear, including socks, have a direct influence on the comfort and development of children’s feet. If they are too tight, they could damage the lower limb growth, not to mention cause pain. Socks should be made of soft materials and fitted so they don’t rub. Children’s feet grow rapidly, so you’ll need to change the size of the socks often. First shoes should be made of soft materials and have a design wide enough for baby feet. Don’t rush your child into wearing shoes, though. Babies need to strengthen their feet first. As your little one gets older, he or she can switch to more solid, supportive footwear. This is especially important if your child is active outdoors or an athlete. Be sure to measure the feet often, so that you can be sure the shoes fit properly, and replace them when they do not.
Good child foot care is important for the safe and healthy development of the lower limbs. Since the feet and ankles will be your little one’s foundation for the rest of his or her life, treat them with great care. If you’re concerned about your child’s feet, or he or she is complaining about discomfort, contact the experts at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information. Call our Medford office at (541) 776-3338 or visit the online contact page to reach us.