How to Recognize a Child's Foot Problem | Foot Care
How to Look After Your Child's Feet
Every parent worries about their child’s well-being and health. Most parents understand the importance of regular check ups and looking after important parts like teeth and gums, but looking after your child's feet is just as important. Understanding how their feet develop, how to care for them, and signs of potential problems can go a long way to assuring they’re off and running without a problem. Keep in mind that any child may experience foot problems, but foot problems most commonly occur in child athletes. Foot pain in child athletes can occur in the bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, or fascia.
Caring for Your Kid’s Feet
Let them go barefoot.Although there’s some debate, most doctors agree that being barefoot is great for foot development. Shoes can look great and provide warmth for a non-walking child. However, once your kid is mobile, ditching the shoes is best. This allows your kid’s foot to develop naturally and build strength in growing tendons without relying on the support of shoes.
- It’s great to let your kid run around barefoot, but make sure to keep an eye on the terrain. Walking on the grass may be fine, but be on the lookout for sharp objects that could hurt your unsuspecting explorer.
Choose the right socks.Your child’s feet may get cold so socks are important, whether they’re sleeping or on the move. With your kid’s feet constantly growing, you’ll want to choose a sock that fits properly without being constricting.
- When fitting socks, it’s a good idea to always make sure they’re at least ¼ inch longer than the big toe.
Find the right shoes.Although barefoot is best, your kid will need shoes eventually. Many doctors say shoes aren’t necessary until your kid is walking outside. There are so many stylish options for kid’s shoes but comfort and health should be your top priority.
- Avoid overly stiff shoes. You may think they’re more protective, but developing muscles in your child's feet need to grow and develop on their own. An overly sturdy shoe may also do the work that your child’s developing muscles should be doing, hindering their development.
- Choose comfort over fashion. It may be tempting to choose a pair of stylish shoes for your new walker, but always choose proper support and fit over good looks. For an early walker, shoes with leather bottoms may be best for traction’s sake, whereas those entering into a walking/running phase may want something a little more athletic.
Make sure the shoe fits.Kids feet are always growing — sometimes as much as much as a half size every two months. You may want to buy big shoes to anticipate that next growth spurt, but shoes that are too big greatly increase the chance of stumbles and falls.
- Stay proactive to prevent overly tight shoes. You may think your kid will tell you if their shoes are too tight, or feet hurt, but this often isn’t the case. Check the fit regularly so you're ready to get them in the next size up when the time comes.
Maintain good hygiene.Although tasks like bath time can be difficult, it is important to maintain good hygiene.
- Bathe your kid’s feet at least 2-3 times a week. This can help prevent common fungal infections like athlete’s foot and also teach your child good habits with which to grow. Dry them well to prevent any trapped moisture.
Cut toe nails straight across, never rounded.This helps prevent in-grown toenails.
Emphasize good walking habits.Once your kid is mobile, you can help reduce development problems by showing them to walk right. Teach them to walk with their feet and toes straight to help avoid issues.
Keep your child's diet nutritious.Just like any other part of your kid’s body, proper foot development requires proper diet and nutrition. Calcium, Vitamin D, readily available in dairy foods, and good overall nutrition can go a long way to reducing the likelihood of development problems. A healthy diet, proper nutrition and exercise can help to ensure feet stay healthy.
Looking out for Problems
Watch your child walk.No two kid’s feet are the same and walking differently does not necessarily mean there’s a development problem. But keep your eyes open for any abnormal gaits or walking styles.
- Common problems include intoeing, outtoeing or clubfoot. These problems usually correct themselves but if you have a concern, make sure to consult your doctor during your next check-up.
- Common acute injuries in children and adolescents consist of friction blisters, wounds to the sole of the foot, and stubbed toes.
Look for ingrown toenails.Making sure you trim your child’s toenails properly can help their toenails stay healthy. Always be sure to cut the nail straight across and not rounded.
- Cutting improperly can cause ingrown toenails. An ingrown toenail occurs when one or both sides of your child’s nail begins to break through and grow into the skin of the toe. If you notice an ingrown toenail, never try to fix it yourself. Call your doctor and make an appointment.
- Never cut into the toenail too far. This can lead to an ingrown toenail as well. Sometimes ingrown toenails are so painful/tender that they bleed and become infected. If this is the case, you need to take your child to see a Podiatrist. He/She will cut the nail out including part of the nail bed, this will allow for the nail to grow back in naturally and comfortably.
Check their feet for warts.Warts are viral, contagious callous looking bumps and can be painful. They can be relatively common in kids and most often appear on the bottom of their feet.
- There are many at-home treatments for warts, but if they’re on your kid’s feet, it would be best to let a doctor have a look to prevent their spread or pain.
- Topical salicylic acid and cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen are the most common treatments for plantar warts. Cryotherapy involves the use of liquid nitrogen. The doctor will apply nitrogen to the wart to freeze if off. Sometimes the doctor has to cut wart first so that the nitrogen penetrates the root of the wart. Often if warts are involved you may need to get multiple applications of cryotherapy.
Watch out for flat feet.If the arch of your child’s foot shrinks or disappears when they stand, they could suffer from “pediatric flatfoot.” Many children have flat feet and grow out of it. But if you child’s flat arch is accompanied by pain and tenderness it could be an issue worth visiting the doctor for.
Look for bowlegs.This is an exaggerated outward bend of a kid’s legs when their feet are placed together. This can be caused by improper foot development and is worth nothing to your doctor if noticed.
QuestionAt what age is this advice no longer appropriate?Community AnswerThis article's advice mostly applies to children ages five and under, though some portions are applicable to children of any age. There are other articles on wikiHow specializing in foot care for teens and adults.Thanks!
QuestionHow often should a child's toenails be trimmed?Community AnswerIt depends on the season - nails grow more quickly in summer than winter. The age of the child is also a contributing factor, with older and younger children having different nail growth rates. You can usually tell when your kids need their nails trimmed by looking at them, rather than setting a fixed schedule.Thanks!
- Buy a new pair of nail clippers every 5 months (they can be bought at any local dollar store, or grocery store), or make sure they are reasonably sharp.
- Encourage your child to try to clip their own toe and finger nails so they will be used to it when they grow up.
- Bony abnormalities like Köhler disease can occur in children that is a chondrosis (deterioration of cartilage) of the navicular bone primarily seen in children under 10 year of age.
- Freiberg disease is an avascular necrosis of the metatarsals (bones extending through the toes in your feet). This is also a disease observed in children. Other conditions seen in children include bunions, bunionettes, and sesamoiditis, which resembles a sesamoid stress fracture.
- Hot concrete and road can hurt their feet. It's probably a good idea to have them wear thongs or sandals on a hot day.
- If you allow your child in public barefoot, you may face ignorant stigma. Don't be phased by this - the public doesn't always know what's best.
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