While it might not be something you think about often (or at all), the health of your child’s feet is important. Your child is growing by leaps and bounds and certain habits and other factors can affect how your child’s feet develop or if they experience injuries or other problems down the road. Unfortunately, a lot of children end up wearing shoes that are far too small for their feet, which can lead to pain, structural imbalances and certain foot deformities.
We know that going shoe shopping is certainly not a walk in the park for most parents; however, it’s an important component to making sure your child maintains healthy feet. There are many things to think about when it comes to picking the right shoes, and your podiatrist can also provide suggestions and tips to make the world of shoe shopping easier for you and your little one.
Some factors that you should consider when shopping for the right shoes include:
- Your child’s age
- The shoe’s material
- Your child’s shoe size
- The shoe’s structure
A good rule of thumb is to shop for shoes every 2 months when your child is between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Once they reach three and four, you’ll want to purchase new shoes approximately every four months. At the point that your child is five or six years old, every six months is a good time to swap out old shoes for new ones.
As you might already know, the bones of a baby or infant’s feet are soft and haven’t fully developed. To protect your child’s feet it’s important that they wear socks and soft shoes. Make sure that as your child’s feet grow that the toes have room to wiggle and move around within the shoes. Bunched-up toes are a major no-no!
Since your little one is growing by leaps and bounds it is important that you are constantly checking their shoe size for changes. Remember that feet swell throughout the day, so shoe shopping should be done at the end of the day when feet are at their largest. If you aren’t sure what size shoe your little one wears, you can ask one of the store’s footwear specialists for help.
Of course, you can’t forget the importance of choosing the right socks, as well. Socks can prevent your little one from blisters, calluses and other foot problems. They can also wick away sweat and prevent fungal infections. When it comes to choosing the right socks for your little one consider the type of fabric, your child’s activity level, the size of your child’s feet and sensitivities they might have to certain fabrics.
When in doubt, you should talk to a foot doctor who can provide you with advice, answer any questions you might have about your child’s developing feet and also provide comprehensive care, when needed.
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Backpacks, paper, pencils and clothes are just a few of the things your youngster may need before the start of a new school year. When shopping for your child during back-to-school season and throughout the year, don’t forget to add proper fitting shoes to your shopping list.
Your child’s feet are rapidly changing and growing. In fact, feet grow so fast when kids are young that parents are often surprised at how often they need to change shoe sizes to accommodate the growth.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, parents should consider a few things when selecting shoes for their little one. Remember these tips the next time you buy a new pair of shoes for your child:
- Proper size: Ill-fitting footwear can lead to irritation and other problems, so always measure your child’s feet before buying a new pair of shoes. Because feet are seldom the same size, always buy shoes for your child’s larger foot.
- Avoid sharing shoes: Hand-me-down shoes can spread fungi such as nail fungus and athlete’s foot.
- Index finger: As a general rule, leave an index finger's width from the top of the big toe to the end of the shoe.
- Breathing room: Buy shoes made of natural, breathable fabrics that are soft and pliable like your child’s feet.
- Test them out: Always bring your child with you to the store to try on shoes before purchasing a new pair. When testing out shoes, the child should wear the socks that they would normally wear to ensure proper fit. Have your child walk around the store to test comfort and fit.
- Examine the shoe itself: Your child’s shoe should have a firm heel counter, adequate cushioning of the insole, good flexibility and a built-in arch.
Because kids’ feet are soft and pliable, pressure on them at a young age can easily cause foot problems and deformity. By promoting healthy footwear choices and consulting your podiatrist whenever you suspect your child has a foot problem, you can ensure the healthy development of their feet.
Like adults, children and adolescents can experience a variety of foot and ankle problems. Many foot problems, such as flat foot, are congenital, while problems like heel pain are usually the result of an injury.
Due to your child’s rapidly growing bones and tendons, many symptoms associated with foot and ankle problems can go unnoticed. For this reason, it is important parents pay attention to even subtle symptoms. Thorough, regular exams of your child's feet by a podiatrist may detect an underlying defect or condition and help minimize problems later in life.
Common Foot Problems
Children can experience a variety of foot problems, many of which go away as the child’s feet become more developed. This includes pigeon toes, flat feet and knock knees. In most cases, these congenital foot and leg problems do not require any medical intervention.
Plantar warts are common in children, especially during warm months when kids are more likely to walk barefoot. Forming on the bottom of the feet, these warts are caused by a virus that enters the skin, most often in public areas such as pools or locker rooms. The condition can be very uncomfortable — like walking on a small pebble or stone — but is also highly preventable and treatable.
Ankle sprains are very common foot injuries for active kids, especially those who participate in sports. Sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the ankle are stretched or torn. Mild ankle sprains heal with treatment, while severe tearing may require more extensive care, including extended immobilization followed by physical therapy. As a general rule, rest, ice, compress and elevate the child’s ankle immediately following the injury.
Ingrown toenails occur when one or both sides of the nail begin to break through and grow into the soft skin of the toe. This can lead to painful irritation and infection. Common causes of ingrown toenails include poorly fitting footwear, toe injuries or poor nail trimming. Caught early, a child’s ingrown toenail can be treated at home, but if the pain persists or the condition worsens, treatment by a podiatrist is necessary to eliminate the infection.
Choose Proper Footwear
Many pre-existing foot conditions can be relieved and new problems prevented by simply ensuring your child is wearing proper shoes. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters, calluses and corns on the toes and heels. Ingrown toenails can also develop and become infected. A child’s feet are constantly growing and developing, so it may be necessary to change shoe size every few months. Additionally, shoes have a tendency to lose proper cushioning and arch support over time. Footwear that shows a lack of shock absorption or wear and tear should also be replaced to reduce the risk for injuries.
If you notice your child limping, constantly rubbing their feet, tripping frequently or consistently complaining of foot pain, then have them examined by your podiatrist or physician. Many problems can be easily identified and treated, and early intervention is the key.
The feet are perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the body. Don’t wait until something is wrong to give your feet extra attention. Keeping your feet feeling healthy and looking beautiful is easy!
How to Keep Your Feet Healthy
Here are some simple steps you can take to stay out of our office for painful foot conditions:
- Inspect your feet regularly, being mindful of any changes in appearance, color and texture.
- Maintain good foot hygiene by washing and drying feet regularly.
- Choose proper shoes, and always wear the correct size.
- Keep feet dry to prevent bacterial infections by wearing moisture-wicking socks.
- Alternate shoes each day.
- Trim toenails straight across and gently file away sharp corners to prevent ingrown toenails.
- Avoid walking barefoot to prevent injury.
- When wearing sandals, remember to apply sunblock.
- If your feet hurt, don’t ignore the pain! Consult your podiatrist if symptoms worsen or do not resolve.
If you have diabetes, you should pay extra attention to your feet, as you are at a higher risk for developing foot problems due to nerve damage and poor circulation. Mild foot problems, such as ulcers, corns, cracked heels and ingrown toenails can turn into serious complications without proper care. Since even the smallest cut can have serious consequences, it is important that people with diabetes inspect their feet every day and visit their podiatrist for routine exams.
When to Consult a Podiatrist
If you are experiencing foot pain, don’t ignore it! Pain, redness, swelling or discoloration are not normal symptoms and should be examined by a trained specialist.
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