Wee feet need freedom to grow and “podgy” feet and “hen toes” (in toeing) are all part of the natural growing process no matter how odd they may appear. The action of rolling into flat feet in infants is perfectly normal and strengthens the long bones of the leg. Concern is often expressed at how flat the arch becomes but this is temporary development which the vast majority of tiny tots grow out of perfectly naturally. Mini adult feet only start to begin to form around the age of seven when the femurs stop 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.
It takes approximately 18 years for foot bones to fully develop. At birth the foot contains 22 partially developed bones, by school age the number increases until 18, with the formation of the adult foot. The baby foot needs protection in the form of shoes only once they start to take their first steps. Tight fitting, baby grows; socks and bootees should be avoided especially in the early growing years. Toddler's feet need special care and attention and shoe size should be checked regularly every three months. Shoe fit is important and most children need a narrow heel with a wider forepart. This requires a special last which is why children’s’ shoes can be costly. Using hand-me down shoes will do no real harm provided no excess wear from the previous owner impedes comfort and the shoes provide protection to the foot.
To allow for growth, the shoes should be a little longer than the foot (1.5 – 2.00cm) when standing. Toddler’s feet change shape approximately every three months so buying well fitting cheaper shoes makes economic sense. Keeping shoes for ‘Sunday Best’ is not recommended and if the shoes fit then the child should wear them as soon as possible and not a few weeks later when the foot may have changed shape. Lace up's or strap fastenings help stabilise the foot and improve comfort. Children’s shoes have two main advantages to the growing foot. Protection from hard surfaces and sharp objects and support to the foot and leg during growth spurts. Most people will have one foot smaller than the other so it is important to have the feet fit comfortably into the shoes. Pairs of shoes usually come in the same size so it makes sense to have the longest and broadest foot fitted.
Most children's shoes are bought from shops where there is no shoe fitter, in which case 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. Buy shoes for growth and there should be a clearance between the tips of the longest toes and the end of the shoe should be about 1.5-2.00 cm. Any longer may cause the child to trip, and should be avoided. Always get the child to try the shoes on and encourage them to tip toe to check for heel slippage; test for length by feeling for the longest toe. This should sit well short of the end of the shoe and neither should the little toe protrude into the side of the shoe. Let the child walk up and down wearing both new shoes. Always take those shoes which are comfortable at the first try as there should be no need to ‘break them in.’ When purchasing footwear from the internet always follow the sizing instructions given by the vendor to avoid error.
Fashion today plays a very important role in younger and younger children although 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. Cheap trainers will provide the same protection and at a fraction of the cost. Older children should however be encouraged to wear appropriate shoes for the activities they get up to.