Preventive Foot Health for Children
Taking care of your children’s feet and helping them learn to care for their own feet can help prevent foot problems as they get older. The following points are important for parents or caregivers to know and understand about children’s feet:
- Congenital (inherited) foot problems do not self-correct. Do not wait until a child begins walking to take care of a problem such as significant toeing in.
- The fact that a child doesn’t complain about foot pain or other conditions does not mean there aren’t any. The bones of a growing child’s feet are very flexible, and can be twisted and moved without the child’s awareness. Inspect your child’s feet regularly (at least once a week) to help ensure that he or she is showing signs of normal development. Click here for an article from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons on signs that your child may have a foot problem.
- Walking is good for children as well as adults. Carefully observe a child’s walking patterns, noticing if feet turn in or out; if the child has “knock knees”; or if there are other problems with the gait. Such problems can be managed successfully if they are diagnosed early. Talk with your physician or foot health specialist as soon as possible, since childhood foot problems can carry over into adolescence and adulthood.
- The growing epidemic of childhood obesity is an issue not only for the general health of children, but also for foot health. Mickle and colleagues concluded in a 2006 study that “…structural and functional changes may be exacerbated if excess weight bearing continues throughout childhood and into adulthood. Therefore, urgent interventions, appropriate to the structural and functional needs of overweight and obese children are required to prevent further weight gain and structural and functional complications to the feet.” 1 Help your children maintain a healthy weight by providing proper nutrition and encouraging them to stay active.
- Going barefooted is healthy for children, but only on natural surfaces such as grass, sand, and dirt where there are no hazards that can injure the feet, and no danger of exposure to germs. Pools, beaches, and lakes can pose some risks to children’s feet (see this link for foot health near water). Also be aware of possible hazards in your backyard, including stinging insects, prickly plants and stray objects that can injure the feet.
- If a child has been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, he or she should not go barefoot at all. Click here to learn more about foot concerns related to diabetes.
- Be careful about using home remedies and adult-strength topical medicines on children's feet. Always consult a physician before using medications or other treatments for a child’s foot problems. Any foot condition that lasts more than a few days should be assessed by a doctor or foot health professional.
- Good hygiene is particularly important. Wash the feet (including between the toes) every day, using a mild soap and warm (not hot) water. Dry them thoroughly (especially between the toes) after washing. Socks should be clean and changed at least daily. If your child is active in sports, consider purchasing padded socks made of acrylic or acrylic blend fibers to help protect the feet from the effects of impact and moisture. Rotate shoes at least every other day whenever possible.
Read more about foot health for children here: https://www.foothealthfacts.org/article/foot-health-facts-for-children
Read more about selecting footwear for children here: http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/footwear/Pages/How-to-Select-Children%27s-Shoes.aspx
Read about sports and children’s feet here: http://www.aapsm.org/children_sports.html
1. Karen J. Mickle, Julie R. Steele and Bridget J. Munro, Overweight and obese preschool children: are their feet fat or flat? Obesity, 14(11), 1949-1953, November, 2006.