Children's Foot Care
A newborn’s feet may be cute, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for prime time. It takes time for the arches to form, bones to harden, and a child to develop a mature, adult-like walking stride. During this period of development, a child may face many unique challenges to foot and ankle health.
Some “problems,” like flexible flat arches and over- or under-rotated feet, are normal variations that are very likely to disappear naturally as the child grows. Other conditions, especially those that cause pain, need more immediate attention. If you notice anything that looks “not quite right” with your child’s feet, ankles, or the way they walk, take them to the Waukesha Foot Specialists for a full examination from a children’s foot expert.
Common Children’s Foot Conditions
The following foot and ankle conditions are fairly common in children, and should be examined by a specialist—at least to provide peace of mind and rule out more serious underlying problems:
- Flat feet. Most children just learning to walk have arches that flatten when they bear weight—this is normal and should disappear within a couple of years. Flat feet that are rigid (arches don’t reappear when the child sits or stands on tiptoes) tend to be more concerning and require treatment.
- Intoeing and out-toeing. A child’s feet, shins, or thighs may be rotated slightly inward or outward, meaning their feet don’t point straight ahead. Most of the time this problem self-corrects, but visit a podiatrist when you notice the condition to be on the safe side.
- Clubfoot. If the foot is severely twisted—often appearing turned on its side or upside down—it needs to be treated as soon as possible. Clubfoot can be fixed without surgery, but it requires years of casting, stretching, and bracing to achieve. However, it doesn’t have to impair your child’s development.
- Toe deformities. Being born with extra webbing between toes, or even an extra toe, is more common than you might think.
- “Funny walking.” Although a little bit of toddling and waddling is normal for a child just learning to walk, more serious issues should be checked. Common gait abnormalities include knock knees, bow legs, high stepping, constant tiptoed walking, and limping.
- Ingrown toenails. These may be caused by trauma (a child stubbing a toe or wearing shoes that are too small) or by genetics.
- Warts. When they grow on the bottom of feet, warts may cause pain when bearing weight.
- Heel pain. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to a condition called Sever’s disease, which is inflammation of the growth plate located on the underside of the heel bone. It is common in children 8-14 years old.
How to Care for Your Child’s Feet
As a parent, it’s important to take good care of your child’s feet and—when they are old enough to care for themselves—help them develop good habits.
- Keep feet clean by washing them with warm water and gentle soap every day. Dry thoroughly.
- Keep toenails neat and trimmed. Don’t cut too short, as this increases the risk of ingrown nails.
- Children generally do not need shoes until they’re ready to start walking outside. Infants should be barefoot as much as possible, with only loose-fitting booties for warmth at night if necessary.
- Make sure shoes fit properly and do not pinch or constrict. You may need to replace shoes 3-4 times per year as the feet grow. Do not give your children hand-me-down shoes—footwear “pre-molded” to someone else’s feet can cause pain and injury.
- Keep an eye out for signs of pain or difficulty. You kids may not think to tell you if there is a problem (or they may be unable or unwilling).
Dr. David Guhl and Dr. Amy Miller-Guhl are passionate about helping parents give their children the best chance of a healthy life free of foot pain. Call our office in Waukesha, WI at (262) 544-0700, and set up an appointment if you have any concerns about your little one’s feet. You can also explore our website for more information or to request an appointment.