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You worry about your children's teeth, eyes, and other parts of their body. You teach washing, brushing, and grooming, but what do you do about your child's feet? Those still-developing feet will have to carry the entire weight of the body through a lifetime.

Many adult foot ailments, like other bodily ills, have their origins in childhood and are often present at birth. Periodic professional attention and regular foot care can minimise these problems in later life.

Neglecting foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. There can also be undesirable personality effects. The youngster with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually has poor general posture. As a result, the growing child may become shy, introverted, and avoid athletics and social functions. Consultation of a pediatrician, and other medical specialists helps to resolve these related problems.

YOUR BABY'S FEET

The human foot - one of the most complicated parts of the body - has 26 bones and is laced with ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Because the feet of young children are soft and pliable, abnormal pressure can easily cause deformities.

A child's feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half their adult foot size. This is why foot specialists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet.

Here are some suggestions to help you assure that this development proceeds normally:

  • Look carefully at your baby's feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, seek professional care immediately. Children do not outgrow deformities. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you've noticed earlier.
  • Cover baby's feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can retard normal development.
  • Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions that prepare the feet for weight-bearing.
  • Change the baby's position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.

STARTING TO WALK

It is unwise to force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since the age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months.

When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allowing the youngster to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. Of course, when walking outside or on rough surfaces, a baby's feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible, properly fitting footwear.

GROWING UP

As a child's feet continue to develop, it may be necessary to change shoe and sock size every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot problems result mainly from injury, deformity, illness or hereditary factors, improper footwear can aggravate pre-existing conditions. If possible, shoes or other footwear should not be handed down.

Walking is the best of all foot exercises. Carefully observe your child's walking pattern. Does the child toe in or out, have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early.

The feet of young children are often unstable because of muscle problems that make walking difficult or uncomfortable. Remember that lack of a complaint by a youngster is not a reliable sign. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it. A thorough examination by a Specialist may detect an underlying defect or condition that may require immediate treatment or consultation with another specialist.

Going barefoot is a healthy activity for children under the right conditions. However, walking barefoot on dirty pavement exposes children's feet to the dangers of infection through accidental cuts and to severe contusions,sprains or fractures . Another potential problem is plantar warts , a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin. They require protracted treatment and can keep children from school and other activities.

Be careful about applying home remedies to children's feet. Preparations strong enough to kill certain types of fungus can harm the skin.

Whenever you have questions about your child's foot health, contact a health professional in your community.

FOOTWEAR

Whether parents like it or not, part of a child's image revolves around footwear. Expensive sneakers have become fashion statements as much as athletic equipment. But for good foot health, the condition of the shoe is more important than the price tag or brand name.

It's better to buy a child two less expensive pairs of shoes than a single expensive pair, so the shoes can be rotated, to avoid rapid wear deterioration. Excessive wearing of the outsole, loss of shoe counter support, or wearing out in the mid-sole indicate it's time to replace the shoes.

Because a child's feet are constantly growing, it is important to allow at least one finger's width from the end of the longest toe when buying shoes. Remember, proper fit is very important. You can have the best shoe in the world, but if it doesn't fit right, it doesn't do its job.

In the shoe store, children should put on both shoes with their athletic socks and the laces tied for several minutes to properly check the shoes' fit. Shop for shoes in the afternoon, when the feet are naturally slightly swollen.

In young children, an "all purpose" sports shoe works well for most sports. A running-specific shoe is not suitable as an all purpose shoe; moving laterally in a running shoe is more difficult and presents greater risk of injury for children. After the age of 10, sport-specific shoes can help improve performance and protect the feet. With the exception of the running shoe, a degree of crossover between sporting shoes is usually not harmful to the feet of a child athlete.

GROWING BONES AND LIGAMENTS

The immature bones of children are different from those of adults. The "growth plates" in children's bones do not finish closing until age 15 to 17 in boys and 13 to 15 in girls. When stressed, these plates are more susceptible to injury than the tendons and ligaments that support the joints. Ligaments tend to "give" before bones in adults.

Repetitive overuse can cause inflammation of the growth plates. They advise parents to promote diverse physical activities for their children rather than one sport. This is especially important with individual sports such as running, gymnastics, and tennis, which require long hours of practice.

Statistics show children who concentrate on just one sport for long hours at a time are setting themselves up for injuries. Because of the susceptibility of bones with open growth centres to overuse injuries. A sports medicine Foot health professional can offer a thorough examination of the entire lower extremity, and identify a leg length imbalance, weakness or biomechanical imbalances that may need to be addressed to prevent injuries on the athletic field.

INJURIES AND TREATMENTS

Sports-related foot and ankle injuries are on the rise as more children actively participate in sports. Parents should be concerned about children's involvement in sports that require a substantial amount of running and turning, or involve contact. Protective taping of the ankles is often necessary to prevent sprains or fractures. Parents should consider discussing these matters with their Specialist if they have children participating in active sports.

Many children suffer from mild "torsional" imbalances, commonly known as in-toeing and out-toeing. Most children outgrow these imbalances without medical treatment. However, if a child has obvious torsional imbalances, he or she may be more susceptible to injury. If that is the case, keep a close eye out for foot and ankle injuries associated with sports activity. Foot injuries commonly seen in very active children include:

Ankle sprains - In older children, stretched or torn ligaments in the ankle, known as sprains, are more common than fractures. A sprain may cause extensive swelling around the ankle just like a fracture. Immediate treatment is crucial to quick healing. A  physician can provide treatment as well as recommend balancing and strengthening exercises to restore coordination quickly.

Fractures - Fractures from overuse in child-athletes are commonly seen in surgery's. Growth plates are particularly susceptible to injuries, but mid-shaft fractures of the bone also occur. If a fracture is not severe, rest and immobilisation may be the best treatment. More complicated injuries may require casting or surgical correction. If swelling and pain persist, see a Doctor.

Sever's disease - Sever's Disease is commonly seen in children who play soccer. It is often felt as pain behind the heel caused by inflammation of the apophysis, a growth plate where a tendon is attached to the bone. Rest, ice and heel lifts are usually prescribed.

Shin splints and stress fractures - Shin splints are microtears or inflammation of the anterior leg muscles, as are Achilles tendon pulls in the posterior region of the leg. Again, rest is most important in healing these injuries. If pain is persistent, see a podiatrist, who can recommend strengthening exercises, certain shoes, or if indicated, prescribe custom-made shoe inserts known as orthoses.

A WORD TO PARENTS

All parents want to see their children do well in sports. But putting too much pressure on a child to become a star athlete may result in both physical and emotional injury to the child. A child should enjoy playing a sport, but if forced, could be turned away from all sports for a lifetime.

Especially with individual sports such as swimming, figure skating, and gymnastics that require long hours of practice every day, be certain the child's heart is in the endeavour, not just yours. When it comes to sports, overzealous parents can potentially do their children more harm than good.

 

Contact Us

mapTrekeek Foot Health Clinic, Trekeek Farm, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9UB

map01840 213054