WALKING is a milestone in every child’s life, and often parents take it into a bragging right, comparing their child’s walking timeline to other kids’. In their minds, the earlier their child takes those tentative first steps, the better parents they are.
Between the ages of 12 and 18 months, children start to take their first steps. Every child is different, and the only way to go about it is to let them take the lead.
Another thing that parents need to be aware of is proper footwear for kids.
When children can walk steadily (around 18 months old), they should wear “healthy” shoes with mild arch support.
When buying shoes for kids, parents need to reserve one finger’s spacing (i.e. 8-10mm). Most parents have a tendency to buy shoes that are way bigger than their child’s feet, in the hope that the child will grow into them. As kids’ feet grow fast, it is also one way of reducing the need to replace the shoes every six months. Lee says this should never be done.
Do not buy shoes that are too large. Excessive rubbing against the shoes when walking will lead to callus. Besides, since there is too much space between the shoes and their feet, children will try to hold onto their shoes with toes and this will lead to claw toes in the long term.
There are areas of concern that parents should pay attention to when considering footwear for their child.
Flatfoot is a common one, where the foot arch is flattened or fallen when standing, without the normal curve that it should have.
People with a flatfoot become tired and feel the pain easily when they walk. For serious cases, it will affect their knee joints and backbones.
Flatfoot is inborn or genetically linked in most people.
> Children below the age of four: There is a thick layer of fat beneath their feet covering the foot arch, which makes them look as if they have flatfoot. It can’t be determined yet if they really have flatfoot or not, until the layer of fat disappears gradually. Normally, the foot arch develops its shape between four and six years old.
> Children between four and 13 years old: Starting from the age of four, the layer of fat beneath their feet reduces steadily. Before the age of 14, their bones are still in developmental stage. So children with flatfoot could still be treated by using suitable arch inserts and going for regular exercises and a balanced diet to avoid getting fat. There is still room for improvement and it is possible to prevent long-term problems reccurring.
> Children aged above 14: Their bones mature after the age of 14. Although at this stage flatfoot is difficult to improve, it is still necessary to use suitable arch inserts and to do regular exercises to minimise long-term problems (caused by flatfoot).
When choosing the right shoes
> Some mothers believe they should look for shoes with arches for children under two. This can, in fact, interfere with their ability to walk.
> Each child has a unique walking pattern, but more than 40% of mothers do not realize this. Most would put their kids in hand-me-down shoes, especially from older siblings or cousins. This should not be encouraged.
Shoes worn by one child over a period of time would be worn in places depending on the walking pattern. When you put the same shoes on another child, who has a different walking pattern, the support and fit would be off. The child would be trying to form to the gait of another child.
> For the best fit, children’s feet need to be measured every two to three months until the age of two as foot growth is rapid during the first two years. After that, have regular checks every four to six months.
> Bones are not fully formed in a child’s foot until age five, therefore the cartilage can be easily influenced by ill-fitting footwear. It should also be noted that the feet grow right into your late teens, therefore your child’s 10th pair of shoes is just as important as the first one.
> Babies’ feet perspire two times more than adults’, so you should always look for breathable material like leather and mesh or anti-microbial linings.
They should opt for footwear with a hard heel counter, mild arch support and different sizes of toe box that are suitable for forefeet fat and thin.
For professional advice or help with a problem, see The Podiatrist.