Your child's feet

During the first 2 years of a child's life, their feet grow rapidly, reaching almost half their adult size. By 12, a child's foot is about 90 percent of its adult length. This is why podiatrists consider the early years to be the most important in the development of feet.

Your baby's feet

The feet of young children are soft and pliable, which means abnormal pressure on their feet can lead to deformities.
Some suggestions to help ensure the normal development of your baby's feet are:

Provide an opportunity for your baby to exercise their feet.

Cover your baby loosely and allow your child to kick and perform other related motions, preparing their feet and legs for walking.

Avoid placing your baby on their stomach for prolonged periods as this can place excessive strain on their feet and legs.

Starting to walk

When your child first begins to walk—usually between the age of 10 and 18 months—shoes are generally not necessary unless a problem is detected. Delay buying first shoes as long as possible, preferably until your child has been walking independently for several weeks.

When you do go to purchase shoes, they should be fitted by an experienced shoe fitter.
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Growing up

'Don't worry—they'll grow out of it," is a common response to parents' concerns about the development of their child's feet or legs. In some cases, this can be true. However, as children grow, their feet undergo various stages of development. Don't dismiss your child's consistent complaints of aches as 'just growing pains'. The reason for persistent aches and cramps can sometimes be due to poor foot or leg posture.Your child may appear to have 'flat feet' for a period of time, which can be a normal stage in their development. However, there may be some cause for concern if your child remains flat-footed.

Sitting/sleeping positions may also affect your children's feet and leg development. In particular, try to discourage your children from 'frog sitting' with their knees turned in and feet turned out, sleeping on their tummies with feet turned out or sleeping on their front with their bottom in the air and the feet tucked under.

Advice to parents

If you notice any of the following about your child's foot health and development, seek the advice of a Podiatrist:

  • Awkwardness when walking or running
  • Unusual wear patterns on your child's shoes
  • Peculiar walking patterns such as feet 'turning out' or 'turning in'
  • The presence of corns, callus or splits in the skin
  • Painful or tired legs after activity

However, note that most foot and lower leg problems in children do not cause pain.

First shoes

Ideally, your child's first shoes should gently ease them into walking. They should protect their feet from knocks and bruises but still allow them to grow. To ensure healthy development, shoes need to give gentle support without being too restrictive.
Professional fitters are trained to know which shoe style fits which feet. Take their advice! Whenever you decide to buy your child's shoes, make sure the shop you choose has a range of shoes that suit your child's particular stage of development.

For older children

Because your children spend the best part of their early years in school shoes, the right fitting shoe is important.
Here are some tips to remember when you are buying shoes for your children:

  • Ensure they stand up to tie laces and check the width.
  • Check length from the longest toe.
  • Never buy shoes that are too large.
  • Shoes must be flexible at the ball of the foot.
  • Cup and arch regions should be firm and not compress with pressure.
  • Never wear hand-me-down shoes.
  • Always wear correctly fitted socks with shoes.

Less than 30% of children have feet of 'average' width. That's why it is so important to measure the width of your child's feet as well as length. If your child is prescribed orthotic inserts by a podiatrist, they will be able to advise you on the best shoes.

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