Feet are often something we take for granted. They are our primary form of transport that allow us to complete our daily activities; from walking to the bathroom first thing in the morning, going for a run, to chasing around our kids in the backyard. Consisting of 26 bones, over 30 joints and 100+ muscles, ligaments and tendons, they really are an engineering masterpiece and are often taken for granted until they start to hurt. All of a sudden, those daily activities become difficult and you start to realise how important feet really are.
Children’s feet in particular are so important to look after. The bones and joints in the foot don’t completely develop until age 7, making them susceptible to injury. As a Podiatrist, I see far too many children who are suffering from foot and leg pain that could have been prevented. The last thing we want to see is a child in pain so the following is a list of five simple steps that you can take to help reduce your child’s risk of developing foot issues.
1. Buy good quality school shoes
On average, our kids spend over 40 hours per week in their school shoes. This is a large amount of time and if the shoes aren’t of a reasonable quality, it significantly increases the risk of injury. You don’t necessarily need to buy top of the line but stay away from the $20 discount store specials. These cheap shoes are extremely poor quality and have no structure or support. A nice way to assess the shoe to ensure they are suitable is to make sure you can’t completely bend the shoe back on itself. It should only flex through the ball of the foot and you shouldn’t be able to twist it like a chamois.
2. Regularly check their shoe size and fit
We all know how fast kids’ feet grow. Given this, it is important to check their shoe fit every couple of months to ensure their toes aren’t getting cramped. Tight fitting shoes can cause a host of issues, the most common being painful ingrown toe nails.
3. Give them some bare foot time!
There is nothing better for your child’s feet than some bare foot time – within moderation of course. This helps to build up strength in their feet and make them more resilient to potential issues. If your child has a history of sore feet or you think they are flat footed, we recommend closely monitoring this as too much time without shoes can cause discomfort.
4. Cut their nails straight across
One of the most common issues we see in children is ingrown toe nails. Everyone who has had an ingrown nail can completely understand how painful these can be. The majority of ingrown nails in children are caused by inappropriate nail cutting (or nail picking!) or as explained earlier, poorly fitted footwear. Try and get them in the habit early of cutting the nails straight across and not going down into the corners.
5. Get any foot or leg pain assessed early as possible
Foot or leg pain isn’t normal in children. Contrary to previous beliefs, growth pains’ aren’t an actual diagnosis and there is more often than not a specific cause of their discomfort. We see far too many children coming in with painful feet and legs that have been sore for months. As with most things, the earlier you seek treatment, the quicker the resolution, so we strongly recommend booking your child in for a Podiatry assessment ASAP if they are in discomfort.