The human foot is a highly complex structure, composed of 26 bones working together to enable us to walk and run, providing mobility and quality of life.
In the newborn, the foot is made up of relatively soft and flexible cartilage that gradually converts to bone over time. During this period of development great care should be taken with your child's feet as they can be at risk from injury and deformity due to ill-fitting footwear and abnormal activity.
Feet continue to grow and develop well into the teens but by the age of 5, their feet are starting to look more like grown-up versions. By the age of 8 the growth will slow down and grow by a whole size length each year. The arch will start to form and their footprint will develop as a result.
First shoes: Once your child can take a few steps unaided then he or she is ready for that first pair of real shoes. When choosing your child's first shoes the first thing to look for is a trained fitter. Then make sure the shoes have these features:
The ideal shoe is very difficult to find and is often a matter of compromise, particularly with older children who are under the influence of fashion and peer group pressure. Footwear which is too large, too small, or does not fit properly, can cause life-long foot problems.
Checklist for choosing the right children's shoes:
1. Ask if the assistant is a trained shoe fitter and, if not, if one is on the premises. To find a trained shoe fitter in your area contact the Society of Shoe Fitters on 01953 851171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Always have both feet measured for length and width. Shoes that are the wrong size can damage a growing foot. If in doubt, draw around the outline of your child's foot onto cardboard, cut out and take with you when shopping for shoes
3. Always have feet measured later in the afternoon, as feet swell during the day.
4. Have your child's feet measured in every shoe shop you visit as there are slight differences in sizing by different footwear manufacturers.
5. Heel height should be no more than 4cm for younger children. The heel should have a broad base and be made from a shock-absorbing material
6. A newly fitted shoe should be approximately a finger width longer than the longest toe to allow for growth and elongation of the foot when walking.
7. The toe area of the shoe should be deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top or sides.
8. The shoes should fit exactly around the heel without being tight or loose.
9. The inner border of the shoe at the heel and arch area should be firm and support the foot.
10. Natural material uppers such as leather are best. Check inside the shoe for seams or stitching that may cause irritation
11. If your child wears orthotics (prescription insoles) be sure the shoe can accommodate them or if in doubt take the orthoses with you when trying on footwear
12. Trainers are foot friendly as long as feet are measured, however, many trainers are designed for particular sports and may not be suitable for everyday wear.
13. Avoid the use of plimsolls in school all day, every day as they offer little or no arch support and are often made of man made materials
14. Avoid slip on shoes. Choose shoes with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings, which act like a seatbelt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot. Be wary of the current fashion for girls ballet style pumps which lack support to the inner border of the foot and provide no shock absorption
Childrens foot health:
1. Inspect their shoes regularly for unusual wear i.e. severe wear on either the inside or outside of the heel or any bulging across the shoe.
2. The frequency of checking children's shoe size depends on their age. On average, children's feet grow at two sizes per year in the first four years of life and one size per year thereafter until growth is complete. To ensure that shoes still fit properly for length and width, a trained shoe fitter should check them every eight weeks. In general, the main period of accelerated growth in girls is between eight and 13 years boys this is slightly later.
3. Inspect children's feet regularly for inflamed nails and red pressure marks in the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and the back of the heel
4. Due to being enclosed in a shoe and living close to potential sources of infection the foot is at relatively higher risk of infection compared to other parts of the body. Any blisters, cuts or abrasions should be treated with antiseptic and dressed immediately
5. Children have naturally sweaty feet but smelly feet may be an indication of poor hygiene. If possible different shoes should be worn on alternate days to allow the shoe to dry out. Damp shoes encourage infections such as Verrucae and Athletes Foot
6. Socks should fit and be the same size as the shoe. 100% cotton is best, particularly if the child has skin problems. Most cotton socks contain a small percentage of nylon. A 50% wool/50% mix is also very good. Avoid 100% nylon socks as they will make the foot sweat and do not absorb moisture
7. Damage to children's feet can be caused by ill fitting shoes or socks can cause short-term effect such as blistering of the skin and in growing toe nails through top long-term deformities. The key aspects to look out for are:
a. SKIN - redness and rashes in between toes and in the arches usually indicates Athletes Foot. Red marks or blisters on heels and tops of small toe joints. Raised and painful hard masses on soles or heels
b. NAILS - inflammation around the nail should be checked as should any discolouration of the nail itself
c. DEFORMITIES - Toes should be straight and not be drawn back or curled
d. POSTURE - Check for arch height as a very flat arch or high arch with pain should be checked. If the feet are not straight turning in wards or outwards this too should be checked