How Do I Check My Childs Feet For Problems?
Your childs feet are often overlooked once they start school and more pressing things take control, such as homework, after school clubs etc… but maintaining and caring for a child’s feet will benefit their health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives.
Our feet are very complex structures, and as the foundation for our entire body, any problems with the feet can result in aches and pains in the feet, ankles, knees, hips and back. That’s where a good fitting pair of shoes will support the foot and encourage healthy development during this important growing stage.
It is important to remember that a child’s foot is not a miniature version of an adult’s foot. In fact, a child’s foot displays a variety of characteristics throughout their growth that should be accommodated by their footwear as they develop. In newborn babies, the 26 bones in the foot have not fully developed, so the foot is mainly soft and flexible cartilage. The bones are not usually hardened until the individual is 18 years old. This means that during development in childhood, the foot is at risk from injury and deformity due to poor fitting footwear.
When looking for footwear for your child, the toe area should have sufficient depth to allow the toes to move freely. The heel height should be no greater than 4cm with a broad base of shock-absorbing material. The shoe should fit snugly around the heel area, should be held to the foot with laces, Velcro or a strap, and should be made of leather. While many schools insist on children wearing plimsolls, they are in fact an unsuitable shoe for a growing foot, and should not be worn all the time. The rubber soling unit encourages sweating, and if they are slip on, this may encourage toe deformity. Many children are also wearing very flat slip-on ‘dolly shoes’. These shoes can cause stress to the structures of the foot resulting in pain. They also tend to have very thin soles that give little protection from injury.
Very young children will walk independently in their own time, therefore, any kind of shoe used prior to walking is not recommended, even if it is the latest trend in babywear! Years ago, people encouraged their children to start to walk at a very early age, by the use of “Baby Walkers” this can be harmful to your childs feet as it can encourage the joints in the foot to take the load earlier than intended and to move in an unnatural walking position.
The most common foot problems seen in children’s feet are:
1. Athlete’s foot,
3. Sweaty and smelly feet,
4. In-growing toenails,
5. Blisters and structural deformity like flat feet.
Therefore, it is good practice to check your childs feet regularly for the above problems and if in doubt, contact your Podiatrist to arrange a check-up. Treatment may take the form of footwear advice, biomechanical assessment – which looks at how the foot is functioning and often involves the provision of foot orthoses (special insoles), active hands on treatment and health education.
Some useful guidelines to familiarise yourself with are:
• Always have your child’s feet measured for length and width before buying new footwear
• Check the size of their socks to make sure they are not too tight
• Inspect their shoes regularly for unusual wear and seek professional advice if you are concerned. Unusual wear may be the first indication that there is a problem with the foot posture or their general posture and should always be investigated by your HCPC registered podiatrist. Normally, wear is across the back of the heel or between the back and the outside. You should look out for severe wear on the inside or outside of the heel which may carry forward to the sole of the shoe. The heel area of the upper may also be broken and bulge inside or outside.
• If possible avoid the use of plimsolls in school all day every day. If a change of footwear is required in school, choose either a fitted pair of trainers – laced or Velcro fastening.
• Be aware that blisters and sores may develop with new shoes if the fit or style is incorrect.
• Inspect children’s feet regularly for inflamed tissue around the nails, red pressure marks on the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and at the back of the heel – these signs may be attributed to ill-fitting shoes.
• Remember that teenagers in particular can be secretive about foot problems and a trivial, easily rectified problem can be more serious if neglected e.g. in-growing toenails left to fester.
• If they complain of itchy or painful areas or you see any rashes or hard, raised areas on the skin, seek professional advice immediately. It may be an easily treated fungal infection.
• Ensure are washed daily with simple soap and water and dry well, particularly between the toes. After drying, a small amount of talcum powder can be used
• Children in particular teenage boys have naturally sweaty feet, but smelly feet may be an indication of poor hygiene.
• The toenails should be inspected regularly and trimmed as required. A good investment is a pair of nail clippers from your local podiatry clinic or chemist. Never cut down the side of nails or cut them too short. When cutting, follow the contours of the nail at the tip of the toe and always leave the corner of nail just clear of the fleshy part of the toe.
If you discover your child has either verrucae’s or in-growing toenails, it is best to book an appointment with your Podiatrist to treat immediately, as leaving these conditions can result in pain, further surgery and increased costs.
Burnham Podiatry Clinic offer a full verrucae treatment package along with in-grown toenail surgery.
The above useful guidelines can be found at The College Of Podiatry website.