There is nothing more natural to a parent than kissing a newborn’s soft pink feet and counting its tiny toes. But once the baby starts to take its first steps, it is not so easy to know if its feet are developing normally.
The good news is that doctors no longer take such drastic corrective measures when dealing with most foot disorders. In fact, many such conditions aren’t considered problems at all. “A baby’s foot undergoes many changes that aren’t serious, don’t require any treatment, and are often normal parts of development,” says Micheal Goldbearg, M.D., F.A.A.P., Professor and Chairman of orthopedics at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.
Although the adult shoe has changed from being a protective covering to becoming a status symbol, the child’s shoe has remained in its basic sole-protecting the foot from the hazards of the outside world. Regardless of age, a shoe’s main purpose is to provide a protective covering during cold weather and prevent injury caused by stepping on sharp objects outdoors. But when kids are just learning to walk, they need plenty of shoeless time. Inside the house, socks with rubberized soles will provide protection without the risk of falling. But kids at some point have to leave the safety of their house and be able to move outside, without endangering their feet. Thus, when parents are buying a child’s shoes it is important to remember to have their babies’ and children’s feet measured by an experienced salesperson as nobody wants the shoe to slip while the kid is walking or to rub against the ankle or toes. “Make sure both feet are measure while the child is standing!” adds Dr. Micheal Goldbearg.
A recent survey of professionals who give advice on children’s feet, including pediatricians, orthopedic surgeons, pediatric orthopedics, and podiatrists, revealed wide divergence of opinion regarding shoes and footwear in both normal and problematic feet. Then, what is a parent left to do? The only rational approach to the subject is to examine some traditional ideas in the light of recent studies and experience, so as to determine if the professional views should be upheld or discarded.
1. Shoes are necessary to promote foot development: In other words normal children’s feet need support, otherwise they will become flat. Recent studies seem to contradict this. Feet deformities like bunions and hammer-toes are very rare among children who wear no shoes, in contrast to those who do, where such deformities are commonly detected.
2. High-top shoes are necessary to support the ankle as the child takes its first steps: Well-meaning but misinformed relatives often perpetrate this myth. Studies have shown that when a child is strong enough to stand up and walk, he will have ankles strong enough to support his body.
3. Sneakers, if worn for more than a couple of hours a day, are bad for children: This is a widely held belief among consumers as well as professionals. There is absolutely no evidence that normal feet develop into flatfeet if tennis shoes rather then hi-top or leather shoes are used.
4. Shoe salesmen are competent to diagnose foot problems and advise remedial shoe war for children: This is totally erroneous. Most shoe salesmen are well intentioned and desire to sell you the most comfortable shoes they can find. But they are not trained to give advice regarding foot problems. Responsible salesmen should suggest to parents that their child should visit a doctor, in case its feet do not appear right.
5. The Price of Shoes: The price of shoes is often related to the kind of material used. Leather is the most expensive, especially if it used for both uppers and soles. Since leather allows the feet to “breathe” in the shoes it helps avoid sweat accumulation and skin irritation. But while leather uppers are desirable, leather soles are not necessary and can be replaced by rubber or crepe soles.
6. The Soles of the Shoes: The soles of the shoes whether leather or rubber, should be thick enough to protect, yet flexible enough for walking. It is also important to look at the bottom of the soles to determine depth of the grooves. The deeper the grooves the better the traction.
7. Fitting Children’s Shoes: Parents must remember looking for a pair of shoes to fit their child’s feet, not vice versa. To get a good fit, both the shape and the size of the shoes should comfort to its feet. Foot size increases whether standing, sleeping, or running. Once the shoes are on, parents should check for adequate length and width, depending on their child’s unique case.
8. The Appropriate Shoe: Certain types of shoes are appropriate depending on the child’s age. Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They only need booties, warm socks, or pre-walking shoes that do not bind feet. Shoes for toddles, on the other hand, age 9months to 3 years, should allow the foot to breathe due to perspiration. Style and shoe-fit is important for school-age children. For any child age, parents should be aware that problems such as flatfeet or high arch could be developed, and they should always pay attention to the anatomic nature of the shoes purchased.