Children’s feet are not the same as adults’ feet. Babies' and toddlers' feet are soft and pliable because the bones are not yet completely formed. This means their feet can be more easily damaged than the feet of older children e.g. by shoes that are too tight. Here are some tips for taking care of your child’s feet.
Shoes and socks
Toddlers do not need shoes indoors when they first start to walk. Letting them go barefoot or wearing socks alone helps their feet grow normally and encourages their toes to develop a grasping action.
- Feet grow rapidly during childhood. Check that your child’s shoes fit properly every one to 3 months up to the age of 3 years, every 4 months between 3 and 5 years and every 6 months for children aged over 5.
- Make sure children wear fresh cotton socks daily and that they air their shoes overnight — this can help reduce skin problems.
When choosing shoes for children, there should be about 1 cm ‘growing room’ between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The shoe should also fit the foot’s natural shape, especially around the toes.
Always have both of your child’s feet measured for length and width. Note that a child's left and right foot are unlikely to be exactly the same size.
Never "hand down" shoes from one child to another.
Uneven wear and tear on the heel of a shoe may indicate a foot problem that should be checked with a doctor or podiatrist.
Flat feet are common in children, but are not necessarily a problem. Arch development will likely stabilise by the age of 6 or 7 years. However, take your child to a doctor or podiatrist if flat feet are causing pain or affecting your child’s walking or other activities.
Most toddlers who walk with their feet pointed inwards (in-toeing or "pigeon toes") or with their feet pointed outwards (out-toeing) and those who appear to have bow legs, will be walking normally by the time they are 2. Take your child to a doctor or podiatrist if these walking patterns persist beyond the age of 2 or you are worried.
Children walking on their toes can also be just a phase, but the Australasian Podiatry Council says it is "not normal" and recommends review by a podiatrist.
Knock knees are normal in children aged 2 to 7 years. If the condition causes the foot to roll or be painful, orthoses (orthotics) may be advised.
Signs that your child may have a problem needing investigation include frequent tripping and falling, withdrawing from sport and recreation, or lagging well behind other children during sport and play.