For certain generations, though less so today, baby shoes carried such emotional significance that people would bronze them to preserve the memory of a child’s first steps.
But as heart-meltingly cute as they are, tiny sneakers and Mary Janes are not the best way for a toddler to start toddling, child and foot doctors say.
So when should a baby start wearing shoes? And what kind?
It’s a really common question, and you hear completely opposite suggestions. Some say to buy the rigid soles; others say that kids should go barefoot.
While the old thinking held that rigid high-tops helped keep a child’s foot in position and offered stability, doctors today tend to agree that less is more when it comes to shoes in the first few years of life.
After they start walking, you want them either barefoot or in the most flexible shoe possible so their muscles can develop properly. Flexibility is the most important issue as they are developing their arch.
The bones in a baby’s foot are soft and don’t finish hardening until a child is around 5 years old, though kids’ feet keep growing into their teenage years. In theory, constricting soft feet with rigid shoes could prevent the bones from developing properly.
Also, stiffer soles can make walking harder for those just starting out because their feet are heavier, making them more likely to trip.
Before a baby starts walking, bare feet or socks are best, though any kind of shoes can be worn for decoration or warmth or to help keep the socks on. There’s no harm done when shoes encase dangling feet, as long as they are not too tight or uncomfortable or have straps pinching their flesh.
Once infants start taking steps, going barefoot is still ideal because they learn to walk and balance better when they can use their toes to grip. To keep feet clean, warm and protected from the minefield of things they could step on, use socks with rubber grips on the bottom, so that they don’t slip.
When kids start tottering around outside and need more protection than socks provide, choose flexible shoes. Rubber soles are better than leather because they are less likely to slip. Aim for soft materials for the upper part of the shoe so that the foot bends easily and the material doesn’t cut into the skin.
Closed-toe shoes are best, because kids tend to drag their toes and might scratch their toes in open-toed shoes.
At 4 or 5 years old, kids can start wearing shoes with more support. The same guidelines apply to kids who are pigeon-toed or have other foot deformities, though if parents are concerned they should see The Podiatrist to determine if special orthoses needed.
Don’t share or hand down baby shoes, especially ones that were worn every day. Shoes need to be broken into a child’s individual foot.
Fit shoes toward the end of the day when the feet are a little swollen.
Make sure the child runs around the shoe store and likes the shoes for their comfort, not just their sparkles. If you see any grimaces or complaints, steer clear of that pair.
Choose shoes that have a little less than your thumb’s width of room at the toe so that your child can grow into it. When their toe approaches the end, it’s time to buy a new pair.
In many cases, there is a predisposition for injuries that occur in adolescent athletes. The following list are some tell-tale signs that may help to prevent future injuries to a child.
1. The child tends to stumble or even trip while walking or running.
2. One shoulder is lower than the other.
3. The hips are asymmetrical when walking or running.
4. The knees point inward or outward rather than straight ahead.
5. The feet turn in or out while walking or running.
6. There is an early heel-off with all the weight going to the ball of the feet.
7. When the child stands, the arches are very high or extremely flat.
8. The child complains of night cramps that wake him or her in the night or muscle spasms in the feet and legs.
9. The child has noticeable hammertoes, bunions, or bony enlargements in the forefoot or rearfoot.
10. The wear pattern on the child’s shoes appears to be worn down on the outside or inside.
If some, or even a few, of these signs are present, the child should be professionally evaluated as prevention is the best form of treatment. It is the group of pre-teens and teens who play two or more sports that I am most concerned with as there is a greater chance of overuse injuries. There is also a greater chance of injury to the epiphysis, or growth center of bone. Injury to the epiphysis of the heel, knee, or hip can cause a disturbance in the bone formation.
The growing pains of children are at times due to the pain of the apophyseal (heel growth plate) injury. Many of the gait abnormalities can be helped by stretching and strengthening exercises, conditioning programs, ice therapy, cross training, and biomechanical orthotic shoe inserts which should control the problem and allow the child to continue with his or her respective sport.
If you are concerned about the way your child/ren walk or run, or if they have any problems, call The Podiatrist.
Walking is the major achievement of kids this age and over the course of the year they’ll get much better at it.
As kids’ mobility improves, so does their ability to investigate where they couldn’t before. Once again, take a look around your home from a kid’s vantage point and update childproofing measures to keep pace with your child’s advancing skills.
How Is My Baby Moving?
Though some babies take their first steps before their first birthdays, most children learn to walk well in the months after they turn 1.
Kids who are learning to walk are called “toddlers” because that’s exactly what they do — they toddle, keeping their legs wide apart and seeming to hesitate between each step, jerking from side to side as they move one foot forward, then the next.
About 6 months after taking the first steps, toddlers develop a more mature gait, holding their hands at their sides (rather than out in front for balance) and moving with their feet closer together. They also tend to move their feet in a way that looks more like walking — moving from the heel to the toe.
During these months of practice, most toddlers take a few spills, but this is part of learning to walk. You can’t protect your youngster from every fall, but you can reduce the risk of injury by keeping exploration in areas with soft carpeted surfaces and away from sharp corners of furniture.
To get back up from a fall, toddlers often place their hands out in front, lift up their bottom, and then pull their feet under. It may not look very graceful, but it works.
After walking for a couple of months, your child will begin to feel more confident about walking and take on new challenges — such as picking up and carrying objects, moving while pulling a toy behind, and climbing stairs.
By the middle of the second year, your child may learn to run, start to kick a ball, and even attempt to throw a ball overhand. By 2 years, your child may jump in place.
As kids develop the ability to move, they’re also learning. You’ll notice that your child seems extremely interested in finding out how things work, so offer safe opportunities to do this.
Helping Your Child’s Development
Give your child lots of things to do and see in this new upright position. Take walks around your yard or through the neighborhood together or hold hands and climb up and down the stairs together. You can even make an obstacle course of pillows or boxes and encourage your child to walk, climb, and crawl through it. Buy a few balls for kicking and throwing.
Experts recommend that toddlers should:
accumulate at least 30 minutes daily of structured physical activity like playing on the playground, going for a walk, or being in a parent-and-child tumbling class
also have at least 1 hour of unstructured free play each day when they can explore and play with toys
not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time, except while they’re sleeping
have indoor and outdoor areas that meet or exceed recommended safety standards for all of their activities
As their physical skills develop, toddlers also learn to use their hands more. Toys and objects that can encourage this include:
paper and crayons
simple stacking toys that kids can build up and knock down
When to Call The Podiatrist
Normal child development follows a certain pattern, and the skills that babies develop early are building blocks for later skills. But the time it takes for kids to develop them can vary widely.
See The Podiatrist if you child is having problems:
walk by 18 months
walk in a more mature pattern after several months of practice
walk any way but on the toes
climb stairs while holding on
Many adult foot problems have their origins in childhood and are present at birth. Professional attention and regular foot care can minimize these problems in later life.
Neglecting foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. There can also be undesirable personality effects. The youngster with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually has poor general posture. As a result, the growing child may become shy, introverted, and avoid physical activities and social functions. Consultation between The Podiatrist at Kids ‘n Motion and other health professionals can help to resolve these problems.
Some children have poor balance and are clumsy. This is because the nerve messages from their feet are not being transmitted to the head efficiently. This can be treated by the Kids ‘n Motion Podiatrists. Children who have poor balance look down, put their arms out and take very small steps when performing very simple balance related activities.
Some children will be required to do exercises to improve their posture, balance and foot function. At Kids ‘n Motion Podiatrists we customise an exercise program for each child. Digital photos of your child doing their exercises will be provided. This service is a helpful reminder for you at home when performing exercises.
Kid n Motion Website for happy feet and children.
To discuss your child’s feet with a qualified and experienced Podiatrist in Auckland – Contact Caron Orelowitz.