Children's feet: Solemates for life

Maintaining and caring for a child’s foot will benefit their health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives. Here is concise practical advice for the maintenance of your child’s feet.

What’s important when buying children’s and teenager’s shoes? 

• Length: Shoes should be 12-16 mm longer than the longest toe, 8mm for sandals.

• Width: Slightly wider than the foot

• Heel height: 0- 6mm for toddlers through to primary school.

• Heel type: Broad base for stability and made from shock absorbing material.

• Uppers: Natural material uppers and linings e.g.leather.

• Toe shape: The toe area of the shoe should be foot shaped.

• Toe depth: Deep enough for the child to wiggle his toes.

• Fastening:  Laces, straps or Velcro fastenings across the top of the foot, and a closed heel or heel strap across the back of the foot.

• Sole: Must be very easily flexible.

• Lightweight: Infants 30g, Toddler 110g, Child and Adolescent under 220g per shoe.

What style of shoe is best? 

Either a style that grips across the top (instep) of the foot and across the back of the heel OR low across the toes but combined with an ankle strap and fastening across the back of the heel.

Avoid backless styles as they force the foot and toes to curl to keep the shoe from falling off. With time, this unnatural muscle action can cause hammer toes or foot imbalances.

How often do I need to change my child’s shoes?

On average, children’s feet grow at two sizes per year in the first four years of life.  After age four, growth is one and a half sizes per year thereafter until growth finally stops in adulthood. This means checking foot size at least every 6 months.

How often should I inspect my children’s feet and toenails?

At least once a week, inspect children’s feet for inflamed nails; red, white or brown pressure marks on the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and at the back of the heel.  If they complain of itchy or painful sites or you see any rashes or hard, raised areas on the skin, seek professional advice immediately.

Toenails must be inspected regularly and trimmed as required. It is not true that you must always cut toenails ”straight across”, rather follow the shape of the toe. Leave at least 1mm of the white of the growing nail showing.

My child’s feet are terribly smelly. What can I do?

Children have naturally sweaty feet, alternate shoes to allow the shoes a full 24 hours to dry out, and avoid nylon socks that encourage perspiration. Natural fibres or specially marked athletic moisture wicking socks are better.

What can parents and teachers do about promoting good foot health?

Set an example with your own choice of footwear.  Review school guidelines on shoes.  Discuss foot health and foot issues with the children. Regard foot health with the same gravity as other health issues. Watch the way children walk and if you notice an imbalance, coordinate a foot screening day with your local podiatrist.

©Anette Thompson & Associates Inc.

Incorporated Podiatric Medicine, Suite 111, Musgrave Park, 18 Musgrave Road, Berea, 

Durban, South Africa. 

Tel +27 31 201 9907    Fax +27 31 201 5750

Satellite practice in Durban North

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