Several foot problems have their origin in childhood and are present at birth. Periodic professional attention and regular foot care can minimize these problems in later life.
Foot symptomatology, seen in children, can lead to problems in other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. The child with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually has poor general posture. As a result, the child may become shy, introverted, and avoid athletics and social functions. Consultation between the podiatric physician and pediatrician helps to resolve these related problems.
THE INFANTS FOOT
The human foot has 28 bones, and is laced with ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Since the bones in children’s feet are soft and pliable, abnormal pressure can easily cause deformities. A child’s feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half of their adult foot size. This is why foot specialists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet. The following are some suggestions to help assure that this development proceeds normally:
- Look carefully at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you , seek professional care immediately. Deformities will not be outgrown by themselves.
- Cover your infants feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can retard normal development.
- Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions which prepare the feet for weightbearing.
- Change the infants position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.
It is unwise to force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months.
When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allowing the youngster to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. When the child is walking outside or on rough surfaces, feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear made of natural materials.
THE MATURING CHILD’S FOOT
As a child’s feet continue to develop, it may be necessary to change shoe and sock sizes every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot problems result mainly from injury, deformity, illness, or hereditary factors, improper footwear can aggravate preexisting conditions. Shoes or other footwear should never be handed down from one individual to another.
As the child grows, foot health examinations annually are recommended by The McKinney Foot Center.
Millions of America’s children participate in team and individual sports, many of them outside the school system, where advice on conditioning and equipment is not always available. Parents should be concerned about children’s involvement in sports that require a substantial amount of running and turning or that involve contact. Protective taping of the ankles is often necessary to prevent sprains or fractures. Parents should consider discussing these matters with their family podiatrist if they have children participating in active sports. Sport-related foot and ankle injuries are on the rise as more children actively participate in sports.
- Problems noticed at birth will not disappear by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem that has been noticed earlier.
- Remember that lack of complaint by a child is not always a reliable sign of foot health. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.
- Walking is the best of all foot exercises, according to podiatrists. Podiatrists recommend that walking patterns be carefully observed. Does the child toe in or out, have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early.
- Going barefoot is a healthy activity for children under the right conditions. However, walking barefoot on dirty pavements exposes children’s feet to dangers of infections through accidental cuts and to severe contusions, sprains or fractures. Another potential problem is plantar warts, a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin. They require protracted treatment and can keep children from school and other activities.
- Be careful about applying home remedies to children’s feet. Preparations strong enough to kill certain types of fungus can harm the skin.
- Whenever you have questions about your child’s foot health, you may contact Dr. Silvers at Advanced Foot & Ankle Center (972) 542-2155.