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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Baby feet and children's shoes




With everything that comes with the happy package, new parents may be forgiven for ignoring baby’s feet. But it does improve baby comfort when the tiny feet are not restricted with tight bootees and restricted bedding which prevent kicking. Provided baby grows and early shoes are well fitting then no damage can come to the developing foot. Nothing charms the rellies more than seeing their kids dressed in miniature adult shoes, however a little caution is required. Wee feet need freedom to grow and the dreaded “podgy” feet and “hen toes” are all part of the natural growing process.



Flattened feet in infants help strengthen long bones of the leg and do not need the arch supported like older feet might. Whilst mum may be concerned at how flat the arch of the feet is this is temporary for the vast majority of tiny tots. Mini adult feet only start to begin to form around the age of seven when the big femurs have stopped de-rotating from their infantile position. If after this stage the child is accident prone and poorly co-ordinated then it is well worth a visit to the general practitioner or paediatrician for advice.



Back to adult shoes for littlies, the new trend is called ‘takedowns’ and expresses the commercial world’s desire to make a sale through image. We are all victims of this but when it affects children it is less clever and says much about our society. However loathe the trend or not, look out for ‘takedowns ‘in all the popular designer brands. As grandparents we could not resist having our first grandchild’s first shoes framed for the proud parents and aunties, etc.. They were Nikes!





The following is taken from a transcript of a broadcast I give on Curtin FM 100.1 . This should not be taken as actual advice but it may give the reader some helpful information. Should you continue to experience difficulties having proper fitting of your children’s shoes, then please consult a credited shoe fitter.

Q
It takes approximately 18 years for a child's foot to fully develop. At birth the foot contains 22 partially developed bones, and by school age this increases to 45, until about 18 and the formation of the mature foot, when there are 26 bones in each foot. Many troubles can be traced back to wearing ill fitting footwear during the early formative years, how can parent’s best prevent this?

A
Children do not need shoes until they start to take their first steps and their feet require being protected form hard surfaces. Even then, they should be without shoes whenever possible. Tight fitting socks and bootees should be avoided especially in the early growing years. Baby's feet should not be crammed into knitted bootees or all-in-one baby grows which might be large enough when first worn but soon become too tight to fit.

Q
Is it safe for mum to let the child wear any old shoe?

A
Toddler's feet are not just mini adult feet but need special care and attention. Shoes should be narrower at the heel and wide at the forepart with ideally lace up's or strap fastenings to help stabilise their heel and assist the foot to function as a pedestal and lever. To allow for growth, the shoes should have 1.5cm longer inside than the length of the child's foot when standing.

Q
Is there a need to buy expensive shoes for a toddler?

A
Toddler’s feet will, on average, change size once every three months. Expensive shoes tend not to be replaced as frequently as cheaper shoes. The greatest risk is cramming the growing foot into smaller fittings. A smaller child is unlikely to complain of pain when wearing shoes which are too small for them. Pay what you can afford and have the children's feet measured every three months.

Q
How about hand me downs?

In this age of consumerism, hand me downs are considered vulgar, but if the shoe fits, wear it. Provided the footwear is not excessively worn down from the previous owner and provides adequate protection to the foot, there is no real problem. You might be obliged to prevent cross infection and need to fumigate or at least wash them. Otherwise it should do no real harm if worn for a short time.

Q
When I was young I remember my Grandmother telling me her new shoes were kept for Sunday Best, what does that mean?

A
In less well off days, children’s shoes were often bought because of a social event like a wedding or Sunday School. The idea of keeping shoes for Sunday Best should be discouraged because if the shoes fit the child when bought, they should be worn at that time and not weeks later when the foot may have changed shape.

Q
How do shoes benefit the growing foot?

A
Shoes offer two main advantages to the growing foot. Protection from hard surfaces and sharp objects, as well as support to the foot and leg during walking and running. Movement of the foot within a shoe is likely to result in shearing stress on the skin which may produce painful blisters, bursitis or callous. Wearing socks helps to prevent the adverse effects of shearing stress. Care is necessary to make sure socks are long enough for the foot and do not shrink with washing.


A
Have you any advice for parents thinking of buying shoes for their children?

A
Whenever possible use a trained shoe fitter to size the child's foot. Unfortunately most shoes are purchased in retail outlets where there is no shoe fitter. When buying shoes, ensure the clearance between the tips of the longest toes and the end of the shoe should be about 1.5-2 cm to allow for growth (any longer may cause the child to trip, and should be avoided). Care should also be taken to accommodate the breadth of the forefoot. Sadly only a few better quality shoe manufacturers make, and retailers stock, shoes in half sizes and width fittings. And lastly check there is reasonable tension on the laces or straps of shoes otherwise if too loose, the fitting properties are lost and the foot would move about in the shoe.

Q
What about parents who cannot afford expensive footwear?

A
A good trick is to have the child stand on a piece of paper. Draw round the edge of each foot, with a pen at right angles to the paper. Cut these shapes out and when in the shop slip the paper template into the shoes. If they come out crumpled, then choose a large/broader size. Get the child involved and interested in their growing bodies by making a game of it all. Measure their height against the kitchen/nursery wall, draw an outline and date it. Stick their feet shapes on the wall. There is a strong correlation between height and foot size, so the older child may use their own measurements to have fun with maths. A popular party game is to have a race with foot shapes, fanning the footprint causing it lift and move forward. This can keep toddlers and Kindie kids amused for hours.

Q
Any other advice you would like to give mums and dads?
A
Always get the child to try the shoes on. There is no sensible reason to need to break in shoes, so only select these shoes which are comfortable at the first try. When standing, encourage the child to move onto their tip toes and watch the heel does not slip out of the shoe. Check there is plenty length by feeling the longest toe comes well short of the end of the shoe. The little toe should not protrude into the side of the shoe. Let the child walk up and down wearing both new shoes and when checking fit avoid them standing bent over their feet (watching what you are doing). Buying shoes is personal and expensive so you may prevent tantrums and disappointment later by training junior before hand.

Q
I have read it is common for one foot to be smaller than the other. Is this true?

A
Yes, always fit the longest and broadest foot first, never the other way around, tempting as that may be , especially to budding fashion models.


Q
How frequently would you recommend shoe size is checked?

A
Shoes should be checked regularly during the growing period, particularly in the early years and during the growth spurts which occur as the child approaches adolescence. When a shoe has been worn for a short while, the marks made by the foot can be seen clearly on the inside of the shoe. The upper of the shoe also beyond the toes can tell you much about the fit. This should be done about every three months.

Q
Should parents insist on sensible shoes only for their children?

A
Fashion today plays a very important role in younger and younger children. The range for toddler to primary is usually fairly sound. Children with long thin feet often have a problem and may need lacing or straps to keep them on. It would be rather naive to expect young teenagers to wear sensible shoes all the time. Often fashion fads conflict with sensible footwear but the current fashions are considered reasonably moderate. Doc Martens for example are lightweight hard wearing shoes which offer excellent support. Fashion trainers have similar properties but do come in at ridiculous prices. Cheaper trainers will provide the same protection and at a fraction of the cost. Getting children to wear non designer trainers is, of course, another thing. Loose laces are not only a hazard but reduce the support the shoe can give and should be discouraged. Children should be encouraged to wear appropriate shoes for the activities they get up to, and remember high fashion pumps will not damage the feet if worn for short periods only.

Reviewed 20/01/2017

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