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she begins to walk (around the age of one), so it’s crucial bones are allowed to develop naturally – without any constrictions.
Don’t put shoes on your toddler too soon, he advises, and even when she starts to wear shoes, “let your child spend a little time without shoes every day so she can exercise the muscles in her feet”. Socks or tights made from cotton, or a cotton and wool mix, are a good option to wear around the house when it’s chilly, but make sure you check the size regularly, especially if you tumble dry. “Socks can shrink, and if they’re too tight this can restrict your toddler’s foot growth,” warns Vernon. “Even if your toddler isn’t walking yet, make sure that any soft booties she wears also have lots of room for the toes to move.”
Vernon stresses that it’s equally important for children’s feet not to be restricted by shoes that are either too big or too small, so always make sure you get the perfect fit, and check shoe size regularly because her feet can literally grow from month to month.
It’s important to keep an eye out for potential problems in the early years. But don’t be overly concerned if your child’s foot looks flat, high arched or if she walks pigeon-toed (with either one or both feet turned inwards) – most children outgrow these problems.
“The sole of a normally developed foot has an arch, called the medial arch, formed by muscles and ligaments. For the first two years, your child’s feet will seem to have fallen arches – known as flat foot. This is normal in young children due to weak muscle tone in the foot, a generous padding of fat and loose ankle ligaments that permit the foot to lean inwards,” explains Vernon. “As your child masters walking, the ligaments and muscles will strengthen and the fat pads in the arch won’t be so noticeable. By around three to five years of age, your child should have normal arches in both feet.”
If the flat foot is mild, then generally no treatment is needed, although a yearly check-up at a podiatrist is recommended. If, however, the flat foot is severe or continues beyond the age of three to five years, Vernon says it could be a symptom of another, more serious condition and your child will need to see a podiatrist for assessment.
Walking pigeon-toed is also usually something your toddler will grow out of. “In most cases, this is simply a sign of developing posture and balance and should resolve itself somewhere between the ages of three and five years,” Vernon says. But if the in-toeing is severe, seems to involve the leg and hip as well as the foot, or hasn’t shown signs of improvement by the time your child is between the ages of 18 months and two years, he recommends you see a podiatrist for assessment as “excessive in-toeing may be caused by a variety of underlying difficulties, such as hip joint problems”.
A less common mis-step for developing feet is toewalking, or walking on tippy toes. “Usually this is due to posterior muscles below the knee (calf muscles) that are tight,” says Vernon. “Stretching or physiotherapy can help a lot.” Podiatrists may also treat this condition with orthotics (a custom-made insert or footbed fitted into a shoe).
GROWING (ALMOST) BY THE DAY
Can’t believe it’s time to buy your toddler another new pair of shoes? Get used to it: “children’s feet grow in spurts and they require new shoes every three to four months,” says Vernon.
That’s half a foot size every two months!
From 16 to 24 months, that growth slows down to half a foot size every three months. From 24 to 36 months, expect growth of half a foot size every four months. And from three years, your pocket will breath a sigh of relief as foot growth slows down to half a foot size every four to six months. YB