As a mother myself, I know you always want the best for our children. Of course we do! Unfortunately as we get busy with the day to day details of life, some of the most important health issues get pushed by the wayside.
Trying to get your child to eat a balanced diet, get off the video games and exercise, finish their homework, read 30 minutes a night...who has time to think about it all?!
So its no surprise that most children come into my office wearing shoes that are too small? Yes, even my kids will be heard sometimes saying "Mom, my shoes hurt!".
It's so common, because we are used to our own adult feet which are no longer growing. We wear our shoes until they die, and often, well past their prime. We buy shoes out of desire but not necessity. Kids are MUCH different.
The feet of children are rapidly growing and developing and need room to do so. But don’t give them too much room. The old days of buying shoes with “room to grow” were just our parents trying to stretch the usage of the shoes. Don’t do that! Kids need shoes that fit them properly, just like you do.
So let's go through the stages of baby and toddler-hood!
Keep shoes off of your infant! Babies who are not yet walking should be barefoot or wearing socks or soft booties…nothing more. Yes, they are cute, but you are doing them a disservice. Babies need to explore their feet for proper development and feel what it is like to stand and balance barefoot. They need that natural feedback, so let them have it.
What about those first few steps? Now they should start in a shoe that is flexible. You should be able to bend the shoe easily with your hands...gone are the days of the white boots! Toddlers’ feet also do not need any arch support, so don’t look for shoes that have it.
Onto ages 3 and 4 - the child's foot is rapidly changing... you may notice some in-toeing, out-toeing, toe walking, or excessive stumbling. Children this age don’t have the ability to compensate for biomechanical forces and issues like adults do. Their pediatrician may tell you that the child will grow out of it. Even so, what most commonly happens is that kids just develop the ability to compensate for those biomechanical forces and the mechanics lead to problems down the road. Identifying issues early and putting a child into a custom foot support, called an orthotic, when needed will allow the kid to develop around a more mechanically correct position. Because of this, the correction that an orthotic device provides to a child may become permanent. Not all kids need orthotics, but if you are at all concerned you should have them examined by a podiatrist who treats children.
School age- Now kids start wearing shoes that look more like your adult shoes. Many athletic shoe companies will make sizes for children. You should also buy a shoe according to the activity, just like you do for adults. For instance a running shoe for kids who enjoy running (not playing, I’m talking about running). The rule of thumb is to have about a half inch between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Your child’s feet are crucial to their happiness. If you see your kid sitting out during a game, not wanting to play, getting tired when you are at the museum, wanting to ride or be carried...it's usually a sign that their feet are causing them pain. First check to see if the shoes are too small, if they have a blister, something in their shoe or another obvious problem. If nothing seems to show on the surface, stop in and a podiatrist who can usually set your mind at ease and get your child off on the right path. Make an appointment by calling 630-834-3668.