Many adult foot problems are rooted in childhood and could have been thwarted or prevented through proper foot health growing up. An infant’s feet are very delicate and soft, and highly susceptible to deformities or injuries. The first year of a baby’s life is the most important in terms of foot growth and development. A child’s foot grows to half of its adult size in the first year. Any deformities or ailments should be treated immediately to avoid the future complications, such as leg or back pain, poor posture or gait, and feet and muscle distress. Children who suffer physically may also suffer psychologically. A child who lives with foot pain or suffers with a deformity may avoid athletics and social functions as a result of feeling awkward. Wearing certain stylish shoes may be impossible due to the extent of the deformity. Many foot problems can be corrected if diagnosed and treated early.
When a child is emotionally and physically ready, he/she will walk. The age for walking ranges from 10 months to 18 months. There is no right or wrong age to begin walking and children should not be forced. Preferably, babies should go barefoot to allow for the normal growth and muscle development of the foot, as well as the grasping movement of the toes. Socks should be worn for warmth but shoes are not necessary in the early stages. Only when the child starts to walk independently on a consistent basis should shoes be worn to avoid injury and offer support to the foot and ankle. Shoes should never be “handed down” from child to child.
As your child begins to walk, observe his/her walking patterns and check for the signs of in toeing, out toeing, knock knees, and flat feet (after the age of three). Your pediatrician should examine and monitor your child’s foot development on a regular basis and consult with a podiatrist if treatment is required.