[MUST READ] 9 things every parent should know about their child's feet

5 min read

1st Tip

Growing feet are developing feet.


The foot is a complex structure comprised of 26 bones. That’s a lot! These bones are designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock. A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone, which over time will fuse and harden into adult bones. Unlike the structure of the foot, which fully develops  by the first 2 years, the bones themselves will not fully develop and harden until around the age of 18. This is why it is crucial to have good shoes early on so that the bones are allowed to develop naturally.





2nd Tip

The younger the foot, the faster it grows.


The greatest changes in foot growth occur in the first 3 years. On average, a child will grow up to 12 sizes in just those initial three years! This is why doctors recommend getting your toddler’s foot measured at least once every three months, to ensure that their shoes fit properly. Shoes which are too small can deform the toes, thus permanently damaging the foot. With this in mind, you  may need to purchase  a new pair of shoes every 3 to 6 months for your child; however, after age 4, you can count on maintaining one size for approximately 8 to 12 months. (This does not include exceptions due to growth spurts).





3rd Tip

Kids feet handle more stress than adult feet.


Kids’ feet endure about 3 times more stress than the average adult foot because of their high activity levels. Children should wear shoes with good shock absorption, a well-made foot bed, and durable soles. Likewise, flexibility is essential in allowing children to naturally strengthen their own muscles.





4th Tip

Feet are the foundation of your whole body.


Doctors argue that most foot and posture problems, resulting in adulthood pains, have origins in ill-fitting shoes during the vital phases of childhood foot transformation. It is key to remember that the foot is NOT a separate entity, but rather an integral body part supporting the entire skeletal structure. Also, a vast majority of  bones in the foot are cartilage until about age 5. As a result, ill-fitting shoes within that specific time frame put one at risk for injury or deformity later in life. Problems stemming from the latter can be seen in bad posture, problematic walking, and persistent back pain.




5th Tip

Arch support for children should be different than arch support for adults.


A child’s arch typically does not develop until puberty. With babies, the arch will usually not have matured or may not even be visible for the first 2 years; even then it cannot be considered a fully developed arch. In the early years of childhood, there is often a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot; however, this is not the case- it is the natural arch support. Therefore, many shoe companies for babies and toddlers do not include additional arch support, as it is not necessary. At various times  you may observe your child’s foot turning in or out, or pronating, due to the fact that the foot arch has not fully developed yet. Despite this being a normal occurrence, if your child begins complaining about pain, they should be taken to a foot doctor (a podiotrist). After the age of 3, look for shoes that include some type of arch support or high-quality foot bed, a well defined heel-contour, padded collars and, of course, flexibility and durability.





6th Tip

Shoe materials make a difference.


Materials like leather and canvas are great for children’s shoes because they have a long durability and are both breathable and flexible.  They stretch and soften with wear, which is good for an active little foot.  Some synthetic materials will breathe and flex like leather or fabric, but some will not, so be careful when picking a shoe that uses synthetic material.  Avoid plastics, as they do not breathe or stretch, and can easily cause blistering and sweaty feet.





7th Tip

Shoes affect sweaty feet, and sweaty feet affect shoes.


Children’s feet sweat a lot! To be precise, a kid’s foot sweats about 2-3 times more than an adult’s foot- one reason why kids are known to wear down shoes faster than adults. Sweating in a shoe day after day (especially if they only have one pair of shoes) will wear on the soft leather lining on the inside of the shoe. After months, it will cause the actual structure of the shoe to break down, literally from the inside out. Sweat is not only a concern for the durability of a shoe, but also because sweaty feet are more susceptible to catching various feet fungi and infections. For these reasons, it’s important to have a breathable shoe that allows the moisture and heat from your child’s foot to escape, letting cooler air in. Clean cotton socks also help to keep feet dry and fungus free. If a shoe looks worn down from the inside after merely a few months, try changing out your kid’s socks twice a day.





8th Tip

Too small or too large; why sizing matters


Shoes that are too small hinder proper foot growth, decrease circulation, cause blisters, ingrown toenails, and just plain hurt! Shoes that are too big can cause uncomfortable chafing or blisters on your child’s heel as well as prevent them from being able to grip the ground properly when running or climbing. Shoes that are too large also cause tripping on the front of the toe, risking serious injury.





9th Tip

Soft sole vs. hard sole


There are two opposing opinions regarding soft sole and hard sole shoes. Soft sole enthusiasts argue that there is such thing as a shoe with too much structure. If a child wears a shoe with built-in arch support and a heavy solid sole, the need for the child’s own muscles to work in order to find balance and strength is diminished.  Their feet rely on the strength of the shoe, which impedes the development of muscles in the foot and ankle. Soft sole supporters also argue that a child should be able to feel the ground under his or her feet, as this allows for better balance and grip.

Supporters of hard sole shoes assert that shoes with structure help to prevent foot problems such as flat feet, pronated feet (the falling in of an ankle) and the turning in our out of feet.  They also argue that a hard provides more protection from harmful objects like glass or sharp rocks, especially if the child is outside or on the playground. Despite both sides of the debate presenting valid points, choosing a side may no longer be necessary with many shoe companies designing shoes that are a happy medium.


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