When it comes to children’s feet, it can be hard to know if what we’re seeing is normal, or if there’s cause for concern. As podiatrists that work extensively with children’s feet, we often have parents bringing their kids in for assessment and starting the conversation by saying “…so I noticed this happening more lately, and it doesn’t feel right to me, but I wasn’t sure…”
If you’re feeling like this – let us assure you that if you’re concerned, or if something feels out of the ordinary, then having a foot health check is the absolute right thing to do. And to help with all of the concerns and questions, we’ve put together a few kids’ feet FAQs for you. If you’re wanting the answer to something specific – just let us know.
1. Is it normal for kids to have flat feet?
As young children, yes. Their foot muscles are still developing, the fat pads around the feet are more prominent, they’re still very flexible – so having flat feet at this age is not something to worry about in most cases.
At school age is when we’d expect to see an arch start to form. Kids are constantly on their feet, their muscles are strengthening and lengthening, their ligaments are growing strong – so it’s common that we’d start to see arches form at this age, by around 7 years old. If arches haven’t developed by this age, there’s a good chance that they may not and your child may have a flatter foot type.
2. Are there any warning signs that parents should be looking out for at home?
There are a few ‘common’ things we look out for, including:
- Pain of any kind, including growing pains
- Children that can’t keep up with their classmates when playing
- Regular tripping or falling
- Balance or coordination problems
- Reluctance to take part in physical activity for no specific reason
- Hesitation when asked to show you their feet
3. Can you fix feet that turn inwards (in-toeing)?
Yes, we work with children with in-toeing using a combination of a specialised kind of children’s foot orthotic designed to straighten the foot, supportive footwear, stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles that may be affecting regular foot function, and strengthening weak muscles to help maintain good foot positioning and alignment. In most cases, we are able to help restore a healthy foot position and function.
4. Why are my child’s knees so close together?
This is a condition called knock knees (medically referred to as genu valgum), and is often seen in children between the ages of 3 and 5. Walking in this position actually helps kids maintain balance as they develop their walking skills. Knock knees are usually a normal variation of growth and development, and this position is just how some children find their footing. However, this knee position also may be an indicator of an underlying condition such as rickets or osteomalacia. In these cases, knock knees may not develop until the child is six years old, or persist after the age of eight.
5. I’ve heard we must just wait through growing pains. Is this true or are growing pains treatable?
We’re not quite sure where the old wives tale of nothing being able to be done for growing pains came from, but thankfully it has no scientific backing. Growing pains are caused by irritation of the growth plate – the vulnerable part of your bone that is responsible for bone growth. It is also the weakest part of the bone and is weaker than the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments. Pain occurs when muscles pull on the area around the growth plate. By stopping this pull and tension on the growth plate, the symptoms can ease and resolve. This is where we can help.
6. Is toe walking normal?
Toe walking can be normal, especially in young children who are learning to walk and discovering what their bodies can do. Some kids can find the habit of toe walking to be fun without any issues. Others may be struggling with a shortened Achilles tendon, making it painful, uncomfortable, and sometimes not possible to place the heel in contact with the ground. If you’re worried, get your kids feet checked.
7. Which school shoes should kids be wearing?
There are several features we look for when selecting school shoes for children. These include:
- A firm heel counter – this is the part of the shoe immediately behind the heel and often has a stitch or seam in this area. Heel counters should be strong to help control the movement at the heel and ankle, adding stability and helping control the position of the foot.
- Laces or velcro – the fastenings on the shoe determine how much control you can have over the fit of the shoe, and laces and velcro are preferable as they give the best control.
- Good toe box – the toe box is where you check for sufficient room and length, based on the longest foot and longest toe
- Supportive, removable shoe liners – the insoles that come in the shoe should be comfortable, supportive through the arch, and removable – so that if your child needs orthotics at any point, they can easily replace the current innersole without needing new shoes.
- Lightweight – heavy shoes can weigh feet down and contribute to tired and achy legs. Opt for lightweight materials where possible.
8. Why does my child have warts on their feet?
Warts are caused by the HPV virus, and is often transmitted in childhood through sharing surfaces when barefooted – particularly in swimming areas. For your child to have foot warts, they must have come in contact with this virus at some point in their life.
9. Can orthotics help kids?
In the right context, absolutely. We use orthotics as part of a treatment plan for a range of children’s foot problems and conditions. Orthotics work by adjusting the position of the foot in the shoe, and therefore changing how the feet and legs work together to produce movement. We don’t prescribe orthotics without a valid clinical reason, however, if your child is suffering from pain, aches or other problems, we will assess if orthotics may be a good solution to help with their symptoms, recovery or future injury prevention.
We Work Extensively With Children
Children’s podiatry is one of our specialities here at Perform Podiatry. We work extensively with kids and love helping them with a range of foot and leg problems from growing pains to ingrown nails to tired, achy legs. Book your appointment with our experienced podiatrists by calling 09 523 2333 or book online here.