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The foot is a complex structure of 26 bones and 35 joints, held together and supported by the ligaments. A baby’s foot is padded with fat and is highly flexible.
Most children begin to walk anywhere between 8 and 18 months of age. Most toddlers are flat-footed when they first start walking, or tend to turn their feet inwards, because muscle strength and ligament stiffness needs to catch up to other development. The flat-footedness nearly always improves as the bones develop and as the feet strengthen.
Always see your podiatrist or doctor if you are concerned about your child’s feet or the way they walk (their gait).
A child learning to walk receives important sensory information from the soles of their feet touching the ground. Footwear helps to protect their feet from injury and from the heat and the cold.
When toddlers are learning to walk, they should be in bare feet or a soft soled shoe as much as possible so they can feel what they touch with their feet and develop muscle strength.When toddlers have been walking on their own confidently for a period of time, they can progress to a firmer soled shoe.Have your child’s shoes professionally fitted, which should include measuring each foot for length and width. Children’s feet grow very quickly and their shoe size may need updating every few months. Shoes that are too tight can hamper your child’s walking and cause problems, such as ingrown toenails.
Shoes for your toddler should ideally have:
Expensive shoes are not always better. Children outgrow their shoes very quickly.
The sole of a normally developed foot has an arch, called the medial arch, formed by bones, muscles and ligaments. For the first two years, your child’s feet will look flatter than an adult’s.
Flat feet in infants and young children are normal. Children’s feet are generally flexible and should not be stiff.
As your child masters walking, the ligaments and muscles will strengthen and the fat pads in the arch area won’t be so noticeable. By around six years of age, your child should have normal arches in both feet.
If your child has foot pain, or their feet appear to be making it hard for them to keep up with their peers, see a podiatrist.
Many toddlers walk ‘pigeon-toed’, with either one or both feet turned inwards (in-toeing). In-toeing can come from the foot, lower leg (tibia) or upper leg (femur).
It is important to see your podiatrist or health professional if your child’s feet are stiff or if their in-toeing is:
Very occasionally, toddlers walk with their feet turned outwards (out-toeing).
In most cases, out-toeing resolves by itself as posture and balance matures. See your podiatrist or health professional if your child’s out-toeing is:
See your doctor or podiatrist if you are worried about your child’s feet or gait. Problematic symptoms may include:
News Release by: Better Health Channel (Victoria State Government)
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