Baby Hints & Tips

Your child’s feet: the first six years

foot growth and choosing children's shoesBy Oliver from The Foot Health Clinic

Did you know that when your baby is born, their feet are not fully formed and will continue to develop for the next six years? It’s a wonderful time of discovery however many parents are unaware of just how much your child’s feet change during this time.

The first six months

From birth, your baby’s new feet are formed mostly of cartilage. As the bones begin to form, your baby will become more aware of their feet and begin to play with them. This is a normal behaviour.

One year

At about the one year mark, your baby will be gearing up to stand and take its first few steps. These steps will resemble a waddle, as your baby tries to maintain its balance by planting its feet well apart. By 18 months, most of the bones in your baby’s feet will be fully formed.

Three years

At three years your toddler’s foot muscles and ligaments will strengthen, and their foot posture will change as the arches of their feet develop.

Until now, the only footwear your toddler needs are socks or soft moccasins, to keep their feet warm while allowing their bones to develop normally however once your toddler begins to perform more complex tasks such as running, jumping and pedalling a tricycle, they should begin wearing lightweight shoes for protection. It is important that the shoes you select do not constrict the growth of your toddler’s feet.

I would highly recommend visiting your local, fully certified podiatrist for help choosing supportive, non restricting footwear.

When choosing shoes for toddlers, look for the following:

  • lightweight: toddlers’ shoes should be not be too heavy
  • flexible/soft: toddlers’ shoes should not restrict toe and foot movement or growing feet in any way
  • breathable: toddlers’ shoes should be made of breathable natural materials (such as leather) or breathable mesh
  • flat arch: toddlers’ shoes should simulate barefoot conditions – all toddlers have flat feet at first, so their shoes should not have additional arch support
  • low heel: toddlers’ shoes should never have an elevated heel.

Children’s feet grow rapidly during development so their shoe size may need updating every few months. You should also ensure your toddlers’ socks are not too short or too tight.

Correct shoe style and fit are important to the health and development of your child’s feet, as shoes that are not fitted correctly can affect the way your child walks and cause deformities.

Potential feet problems to look out for

It is also important as a parent to be aware of some of the problems that can occur during the first six years of development.

These include:

  • flat feet
  • joint hypermobility syndrome
  • toe walking
  • intoed gait
  • growth plate inflammation.

Some of these problems can be prevented with the right footwear, while others are treatable if detected early. Watch your child closely. Take interest when they are discovering their new found mobility. If there are any concerns at all please don’t hesitate to visit your podiatrist.

Oliver Fawcett B. App. Science (Podiatry) Director & Principal Podiatrist, Foot Health Clinic. Oliver founded the Foot Health Clinic, Samford, in 1996, and has continued to develop the practice ever since. In 2007, he expanded the clinic to include orthotic-friendly footwear. Outside of private practice, Oliver has worked in community health centres and taught at Queensland University of Technology. He has also travelled to biomechanics and orthotic conferences in the USA and presented at state podiatry conferences. Visit the Foot Health Clinic website and facebook page.

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