Tips To Help Your Child Have Strong And Healthy Feet

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Feet seem simple on the surface but are actually very complex. Each foot has 26 bones (a quarter of all the bones in the body), 33 joints and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments. According to the BC Association of Podiatrists, the average person takes about 8,000 steps a day. That’s nearly 300,000 kilometres over a lifetime – enough to go around the circumference of the earth four times.

Dr. Henry Ukpeh, a British Columbia paediatrician, believes there are significant benefits to children in going barefoot for the first year. “Walking in bare feet allows a child to develop a sense of balance and position and improves the child’s ability to develop the nerve endings that serve the sole of the foot,” says Dr. Ukpeh. “Shoes in the first year of life are only cosmetic.”

Dr. Morris Zoladek, a podiatrist in Burlington, Ontario, says that socks or lightweight, flexible footwear, like booties and slippers, are enough before a child requires shoes. Parents just need to keep their babies’ feet warm and protected. But once a baby is weight bearing, a child should be in shoes. Fit the first pair “when babies pull themselves up and start to walk around hanging on to something.”

Dr. Zoladek says that much of the research in shoes is done by the big athletic shoe companies.

“As a result, running shoes are better than the orthopaedic shoes they had 30 years ago,” he says. “They all have good arch support and sole flexibility.”

Price isn’t what matters most. The condition of the shoe is more important than price tag or brand name. Plus, it’s better to buy two pairs so the child can alternate.

Socks, tights and baby sleepers also need to fit properly and should not restrict the foot. Sock size should increase as the foot grows.

There’s more to taking care of the feet than just shoes. Foot hygiene is extremely important. Dr. Zoladek advises that parents teach proper foot care and hygiene the same way that they would treat oral hygiene. Even young children can learn how to clean and dry their feet, how
to put on socks and when to wear shoes.

“When you wear a a pair of shoes, your foot imprints into the shoe,” says Dr. Zoladek, who warns parents not to pass along shoes. It’s an issue tempered by the bank balance. While it could save you a few dollars, it could cause your child to have sore feet.

“If at all possible, try to buy the shoe to fit the foot, rather than letting the foot grow into the shoe to make it last longer,” says Dr. Zoladek. Most podiatrists agree that shopping for shoes in the late afternoon is best, when the feet are naturally slightly swollen.

Kids’ feet grow two sizes per year in the first four or five years; after that, their feet grow one size per year until they stop growing. Children’s feet continue to develop well into their teens.

Parents should check a preschooler’s foot size every six weeks, gradually extending that to every four to five months by the time a child is five.

In the tween years, girls have an accelerated foot growth between eight to 13 years old, peaking at about 12. It’s slightly later for boys, between 10 and a half to 16 years old, peaking at about age 14. PC

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