When you have a child, you need to learn a lot about how to care for another person very quickly. One area that often gets ignored—but never should be—is their feet.
Although children’s feet and ankles don’t have as many “miles” on them as adult feet do, they can still experience many of the same problems. In addition, you also have to deal with the fact that they’re growing rapidly, too!
Taking care of your kids’ feet is not difficult, though. In most cases, all it takes is some careful attention and smart choices. Here are some tips for foot care ranging from toddlerhood to the tweens.
Keep Shoes Off Your Toddler Indoors
When your child is learning how to walk, keeping those feet free will help them strengthen their muscles and develop proper control. The more contact feet have with the ground, the better they can feel for balance and learn to grip or grasp with the toes as needed.
Being either barefoot or in socks is just fine while indoors. Please do use shoes when going outdoors, however. You never know what might be out there that could cause damage.
Keep Up With Shoe Sizes
We wish we could tell you of a good, cost-conscious alternative when it comes to buying shoes for a growing child, but there isn’t one. The truth is that children’s feet grow fast, and that means getting new shoes to keep pace!
While growth rates vary, it is safe to expect your child to outgrow their shoes:
- Every 2-3 months between the ages of 1-2.5 years.
- Every 4 months between the ages of 2.5-4 years.
- Every 6 months between the ages of 4-6 years.
Again, however, these are guidelines. If you see signs your child’s shoes are too small (no space between the toes and inside of the shoe, for example), take them to get a new pair right away.
We do not recommend trying to “game the system” by buying shoes that are too big and letting your child “grow into them.” Until they do, those too-big shoes can cause discomfort, walking issues, and other problems.
Are hand-me-down shoes an option? We wouldn’t recommend those, either. Shoes that are worn tend to conform specifically to the shape of the foot of whoever was wearing them. These leftover wear patterns may cause undue stress or friction to certain areas of your child’s feet.
Cut Toenails Correctly
The way that you cut your child’s toenails—and eventually teach them how to do so—can be a big step toward preventing ingrown toenails. (The other big step just happens to be not wearing shoes that are too tight, which we just covered above!)
Toenails should be trimmed straight across, without curving around the edges. You should also always leave a little bit of white at the end of the nail – going further is going too far, and can risk injury. If there are sharp corners on the nails, gently file them down.
Watch for Signs of Gait Abnormalities
As children learn to walk, you may very well see some abnormalities in the way they walk. Watch for behaviors or signs such as:
- Walking with toes pointed inward or outward.
- Walking for extended periods on tiptoe.
- Arches that disappear while walking and reappear while sitting or standing on tiptoes.
If you are seeing any of the above in your child, you do not need to panic. Most often these are just part of development, and your child will grow out of them.
That said, we still recommend calling us about them. While such abnormalities often go away, they sometimes don’t. We want to ensure that your child’s development proceeds normally. If it isn’t, we can take early action to address any problems and keep them from having a big impact on your child’s growth.
Keep Feet Clean, Dry, and Protected
We know that this can sometimes be easier said than done with kids, but make sure those feet get washed at bath time, especially between the toes. Good hygiene will help prevent fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and viral infections such as plantar warts.
In addition to keeping feet clean and dry, reduce their exposure to the fungi and viruses that can cause problems in the first place. Since those organisms enjoy warm, damp, wet places, that means using shower shoes (or at the very least, sandals) in locker rooms and high-traffic areas around public pools.
See Us for Any Concerns Sooner Than Later!
Since children’s feet grow and develop so quickly, a lot can happen over a short period of time. If you spot something that concerns you, please never hesitate to contact us about it!
If there is a problem, identifying it and addressing it as soon as possible is key to reducing the risk of chronic problems in the future. And if it turns out there wasn’t really a problem to begin with, you’ll have one of the greatest gifts a parent can receive: some peace of mind.
Our Medford office is here for the foot and ankle needs of your entire family. Call us at (541) 776-3338 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online contact form if you wish to reach us electronically.