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Family Foot & Ankle

Pediatric Foot Care: Taking Care of Children’s Feet

children's feetNothing is more important to you than the health and safety of your children. At Family Foot and Ankle Center, we understand this. It’s why we have “family” right in our name.

When they’re still young, children’s feet are composed of soft, flexible cartilage—that’s why a toddler’s arch collapses and flattens while standing and walking, but may reappear when not bearing weight. As children age, the bones become more rigid, but they may be 18 before they’re fully hardened. This makes children’s feet fundamentally different from adult feet—they’re not just little grown-ups. They require special attention and care.

Kids are remarkably resilient. They are able to heal and recover faster and more fully from conditions that would hobble their parents. However, it’s critical that pediatric conditions are addressed right away. If untreated, certain abnormalities can permanently affect your child’s gait and movement.

We’ve put together practical advice on foot care for children every parent should know and follow. Read on.

Your Little One (Infants and Toddlers)

  • If you notice anything that looks unusual to you before your child begins walking, come see us as soon as possible. Some deformities correct themselves in time, but many do not.
  • Infants should not wear shoes. Their feet are growing so quickly that any footwear, even booties, can quickly become restrictive and prohibit normal growth and development. You also want those legs free to kick and stretch—this is important exercise and helps prepare your little one for walking.
  • Never force a child to begin walking before he or she is ready, including using baby walkers. When the time is right, they will walk.
  • Once your baby begins walking, carefully monitor their gait. Are they tripping regularly? Do they persistently walk on tip-toes? Are their toes pointed inward when they walk? Again, sometimes kids grow out of these abnormalities, but you should never assume the problem will get better on its own—bring them in for an evaluation.
  • Although babies and toddlers on the move should still walk barefoot indoors, you’ll need to get a good pair of shoes to protect them outdoors. Shoes should always fit properly—you may need to replace them 3 or 4 times per year (or more) in order to keep up with their growth. Never hand down footwear from big siblings, either—shoes that have already conformed to one foot can damage another.
  • Check shoes for wear. If the treads are grinding down unevenly, it could indicate a biomechanical issue that needs to be corrected.

Growing Up (School-Age)

  • It’s good to have at least two pairs of “everyday” shoes. Children’s feet are sweaty, and being able to alternate footwear minimizes the risk of damp shoes contributing to bacterial or fungal infections.
  • When selecting the right shoe, make sure it fits comfortably (don’t trust a size number—measure every time). Also, look for a stiff heel and rigid middle, as well as a toe that flexes with your child’s toes without totally folding inward.
  • Make sure feet are washed every day and dried thoroughly, including between the toes.
  • Check your child’s feet regularly. Do you notice any redness or rashes on the skin? Could be a fungal infection. Blisters on the heel or toes? Probably need a new pair of shoes. Inflammation or discoloration around the nails? Feet that don’t point straight? Time to seek treatment.
  • Kids who play sports, especially those that require lots of jumping, turning, and shifting weight, can suffer injuries. If your child complains of foot, ankle, or heel pain, or you notice limping, contact Family Foot and Ankle Center immediately.
  • Remember that just because your child isn’t complaining doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a problem. Younger kids might not even feel discomfort due to softer bones, and older kids may want to hide their condition. If you notice any abnormalities, get them checked.

For more helpful tips, give us a call or read more in our free online patient library. You can reach us at (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572 and set up an appointment in Cincinnati, Finneytown, Hamilton, Fairfield, or Florence.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.