There are 26 bones, 19 muscles, 107 ligaments and an array of delicate blood vessels and nerves all working together to control the movement of each foot.
The cartilage in a child’s foot does not become bone until the foot is fully developed.
Information about movement comes from the nerves on the soles of our feet. The more we can feel the ground, the greater our body senses its surroundings and can better respond and adapt to it.
Children’s foot health medical experts worldwide agree that barefoot walking is not only the best thing for healthy foot development, but also for proper posture development.
Dr Wikler, a podiatrist specialising in children’s foot biomechanics claims that “children whose feet are healthy do not need a shoe for support; they need a shoe only for protection”.
Important Shoe Features
Barefoot might be best but it’s not always practical, and therefore, children shoes should allow the foot to function as close to barefoot as possible. If your child walks very differently with shoes on compared to barefoot, then the shoes do not fit correctly and shouldn’t be worn. When choosing your child’s shoes, look out for the following features:
Flexible shoes allow the foot and ankle to develop most naturally by enabling the foot to respond to changes in the walking environment. When choosing a shoe, you should be able to easily bend it to ensure that it adapts to the surface, and that it allows free foot movement. Inflexible, rigid shoes that restrict motion are potentially harmful to kids’ foot development.
Shoes should not be heavy or impede the child’s movement in any way. Heavy shoes can lead to a lack of confidence tired legs, and improper posture.
With wide toe-boxes
Children’s feet are not just a scaled down version of adult’s feet. They have a triangular shape, which is wider at the toes, and children’s shoes need to reflect this. Good toddler shoes require a correspondingly much bigger toe area than the shape of an adult shoe. Many manufacturers of children’s shoes are simply scaled down versions of adult shoes. Shoes with wide toe boxes enable the child to wriggle their toes freely, and allow the toes to spread without constriction. Not only should the toe box be wide, but the opening to the shoe should also be wide enough to enable the foot to slip in easily, without having to squeeze the toes in any way.
The interior lining, which is the interface between the shoe and the foot, should be soft and smooth to avoid irritation. The best material for children’s shoe lining is fabric, padded with foam, similar to the one in athletic shoes. It is recommended to put your hand inside the shoe, and check that the interior of the shoe is completely smooth.
The best soles are protective, while simulating barefoot conditions, meaning, flat and thin, without heels, arch supports or other “molding” features. Soling material should be slip-resistant, shock absorbing and flexible.
Shoe and Foot Care
When you’ve chosen your child’s shoes, follow these great tips for keeping them and your child’s feet in tip top condition:
- Feet should be thoroughly washed and dried daily, especially between the toes.
- Toe nails should be kept short and straight.
- Tights should have a heel and toe feature, not be just a long tube over the foot.
- Ideally, children should have more than one pair of shoes and alternate between them.
- Shoes should be changed 3-4 times a year. This prevents feet from becoming too ‘molded’ to a particular shoe
- Feet should be measured regularly, particularly in the 1st 3 years of walking.
- Shoes should be cleaned according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Shoes should be thoroughly aired after wearing them as sweat may cause dampness.