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Feet are for Life

Babies' feet are made of soft, flexible cartilage. Over the years these will become strong bones, but it takes about 18 years for children's feet to fully develop! During this long growth period children love to play, dance and jump around. They depend on healthy, pain free feet to live such an active life. By observing your children's posture, walk and feet, you can prevent a common foot problem that can be corrected from becoming a serious one which might have a life-long effect on their well-being. Here are a few guidelines for your children's foot health:

How to look after children's feet


  1. Make sure that socks, tights, shoes allow your child's toes plenty of room to straighten out and move around freely. Socks can shrink easily when tumble dried. If socks are too tight, they cause toes to curl and do not allow them to stretch. This restricts the growth of little feet!
  2. Give your child plenty of opportunities to walk barefoot or with socks indoors. Just make sure that the floor is clean and safe. This will allow little feet to exercise, thus encouraging a healthy and natural development.
  3. Check your child's toes regularly and cut them straight to prevent ingrown toenails.
  4. Make sure to dry little feet well after bathtime, especially between the toes.
  5. Always choose shoes made of breathable materials such as cotton, wool or leather. This will prevent children's feet from sweating and consequently reduce the risk of fungal infections.
  6. The shoes' soles should be made of natural rubber or leather as these materials offer feet more flexibility and allow a natural heel to toe movement. Nowadays a lot of shoes are made with stiff synthetic soles that are not only uncomfortable but also bad for foot development.

When should my child wear a first pair of shoes?


The longer your baby walks without shoes, the more it will allow little feet to develop naturally. If your child starts to walk outdoors, little feet obviously need more protection. This is the time to buy a first pair of shoes.

Make sure the first shoes are correct in size. Children need 1.2 cm growing space in their shoes to allow a healthy foot growth. To find out what shoe size your child currently needs, please read our sizing page. The shoes also need to be wide enough so that all toes lie flat and the feet are not squeezed. We offer advice on how to check the fit of shoes at home, please read our fitting page.

A baby's foot will grow faster during the first 3 years than at any other time. It is therefore important to measure your child's feet every 6/8 weeks. A toddler can grow 2-3 full shoe sizes a year until the age of 4 years old.

Common foot problems


Children do not feel many of the common foot problems and sometimes even do not tell you when they have pain. We therefore highly recommend having your children's feet checked by a paediatric podiatrist in their early growing years if you notice one of the following:

  1. The foot arches are low or flattened
  2. You notice a difference in the wear of both shoes
  3. The feet are turning outwards or inwards
  4. Your child complains about tired legs
  5. The heels are leaning towards each other
  6. Your child walks on his toes rather than on the feet
  7. Your child does not find any pleasure in physical activity
  8. You notice feet differences, maybe one foot is flatter or turns inwards for example
  9. Your child complains about any consistent pains in his feet
  10. Your child trips or stumbles very often
  11. Your child has night pains in knees and legs

Ignoring any of your children's foot problems may cause deformities of feet and toes and pain in their feet, legs, and lower back. So if in doubt, please seek advice from a paediatric podiatrist.

Flat feet


Toddlers' feet are flat as their muscles and bones are still very soft and not sufficiently developed. Their feet may also look flat because of the fat that is still deposited around their feet. They even waddle when walking as the correct walking posture has to be learned first and the body has to adapt!

A young foot is flat because the foot arch is not yet formed. A foot arch is a flexible bridge between the front of a foot and the heel, acting like a spring. This gives the foot stability and flexibility and absorbs shocks. Children only develop a foot arch from the age of 10 years old and even later. Children shoes should therefore not come with any arch support as this would force feet into a position young feet are not ready for.

Children with flat feet will not complain but the lack of a foot arch puts added pressure on ankles, knees, hips and feet. A lot of children with flat feet therefore tend to avoid sport or do not enjoy physical activity, as it is more tiring and uncomfortable. Most children do not develop a normal heel-to-toe movement before they are on average three years old. Around that age, check if your child's feet form an arch when standing on the toes. If the feet do not show any signs of an arch and you suspect flat feet, we advise you to seek the opinion of a paediatric podiatrist. If needed, your child might be prescribed thin orthotic insoles to support the foot posture.

In-toeing and out-toeing


Some toddlers might walk with their feet turning inwards or outwards. This can correct itself with time as children become more confident on their feet. But if the problem persists beyond toddlerhood, talk to your GP about your concern.

Tip-toeing


When a child walks on the toes and puts no weight on his/her heels, it is called tiptoeing. The achilles tendons might be shortened, so it is best to consult a podiatrist. He might suggest sessions with a physiotherapist.

Heel and Knee pains


These are common in children aged 8 to 13 years. This is their main growth phase and growing can hurt.

Ingrowing toenails


If toenails are cut incorrectly, the sides of the nails grow into the flesh making the skin appear red and swollen. To prevent needing medical intervention, cut your child's toenails straight rather than in a curve and never cut them too short.

Blisters


These are caused by new shoes most of the time. Shoes that may be ill- fitted: too narrow or too small. The lining should be made of leather or another natural material, to allow breathability. A sweating foot will have softer skin and develop blisters more easily. Small children cannot tell if shoes fit well. So it is important you check the fit of your child's shoes. Our fitting page will help you know what to look out for.

If possible remove socks and shoes for a while to allow the blister to dry up. Don't burst the blisters, as it may cause infection. If the skin is broken, apply an antiseptic cream or spray.

Hand, foot and mouth disease


This common childhood viral infection causes blisters on your child's mouth, hands and feet. Your child may also have a slight fever. The symptoms will normally resolve within a few days. If they persist, please seek medical advice.

Athlete's foot


This fungal infection causes a red, itchy rash between the toes as a result of staying damp and moist for a long time. This shows how important it is to dry the toes after swimming and bathing.

Verrucas


These are small warts on children's feet that can easily be picked up at swimming pools. They should disappear within 1-2 years but should be checked by a GP.

How do I find a podiatrist?


The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists offers further advice on their website and published a register of podiatrists, so you can find one near you.