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.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is inflammation along the Achilles tendon found on the back of the lower leg attaching the calf muscles to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and is responsible plantarflexion of the ankle (causing the front of the foot to lower and lift the heel off the ground). Achilles tendonitis is typically caused by overuse (running and jumping type exercises).
What are causes of Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles Tendonitis is usually due to overuse, but this tends to happen in specific situations:
• Sudden increase in the amount or intensity of activity
• Tight calf muscles
• Running on hard surfaces such as concrete
• Running too often
• Frequent jumping activities (such in volleyball or basketball)
• Using shoes with improper support
How is Achilles Tendonitis Diagnosed?
Typically only a physical exam is needed to diagnose Achilles Tendonitis. In some more involved cases Diagnostic Ultrasound and even an MRI may be warranted.
What is the treatment for Achilles Tendonitis?
Most cases of Achilles Tendonitis can be treated conservatively. This involves a number of modalities including:
• Decreasing or stopping all high impact activity until the acute inflammatory phase has passed.
• Running or walking on softer or smoother surfaces.
• Switching to swimming or biking for aerobic activity
• Stretching exercises
• Strengthening exercises with eccentric contractions of the Achilles.
• Heel lifts in the shoes
• Foot Orthoses
If you are suffering from any foot pain, see The Podiatrist.