Kids’ Feet: What to Look For
Most kids, when they’re in the right mood, are more than happy to talk and ask questions on almost any topic that pops into their heads. However, sometimes the things they really should be sharing with mom and dad don’t come up—for example, foot pain.
Just like adults, kids can struggle with pinched toes, painful heels, flat feet, and other problems. They also experience problems more unique to kids. For example, kids may be born with feet, shins, or even femurs that are rotated slightly, causing the toes to point inward or outward. Although this usually self corrects within the first decade of life, it still needs to be monitored.
But kids aren’t always going to tell you when their feet hurt. Furthermore, some foot problems don’t actually cause pain at first but can lead to problems later if not addressed. That’s why it’s so important for parents to keep an eye on their children and spot issues ahead of time.
Starting with your littlest ones:
- If you notice anything that looks amiss, best to get it checked immediately.
- Infants don’t need shoes, and feet and legs should only ever be covered loosely when necessary. You don’t want to restrict movement or growth. That includes sleepsuits and bedding—don’t tuck them in so tightly that they can’t kick their feet in their crib.
- Keep an eye out for painful ingrown toenails. Some people are genetically predisposed to the condition, so they may appear at a very young age.
- Opt for light, flexible shoes once kids start to walk, but only for outdoors. Inside, let them continue to go barefoot or with light socks. This helps promote healthy muscle development.
- Kids’ feet grow very fast, so check their shoes regularly and replace them before they get too tight. (Measuring feet every six weeks is a great idea.) You might only have a month or two before it’s time to size up.
- Watch your child’s arches as they begin to walk. You might notice that they flatten while standing, but re-emerge when sitting or on tiptoes. That’s pretty normal, and usually goes away by age 2 or 3. However, feet that remain flat much later than that, or are more rigidly flat, may need treatment.
Continuing to grow:
- Keep checking those shoes! It may take many years yet before kids wear out their shoes before growing out of them.
- Observe your child’s stability and gait as they walk. Obviously they won’t look perfect at first, but if you notice feet pointing inward or outward, bow legs, a tendency to walk on tiptoes, or any other kind of unbalanced or unsteady gait, bring them in for a checkup.
- Make sure you teach good hygiene habits to your little one. Soon, they’ll be responsible for keeping feet clean and dry every day.
- Don’t give your kids hand-me-down shoes, even though big brother’s or big sister’s old pair might still be in good shape. Shoes tend to take the shape of the original wearer’s feet, and shoes that have “molded” to someone else can cause pain for a new user.
- As kids begin enjoying more independence and active play, keep an eye out for signs that they might be withdrawing from things they used to enjoy, or asking you to carry them more frequently. This could be a sign that their feet are hurting.
Dr. Joel Foster is a podiatrist in Lee’s Summit, Missouri who specializes in foot and ankle care for the entire family, from newborns to those in their eighth decade and beyond. We love meeting your little ones and are dedicated to providing care that’s gentle, comforting, and effective. To schedule an appointment, give us a call today at (816) 246-4222.