1. What are the most critical years for foot development for a child?
The critical development years happen from infancy and into the toddler years. Children's feet continue to develop until they're approximately 18 years old so it's important to start taking care of their feet early. At this age, the child's foot bones are developing and can literally be moulded. The proper footwear can ensure a lifetime of healthy feet.
2. How do children's foot bones develop during their first years of life?
A baby's foot is not simply a smaller version of an adult's. The bones in a baby's foot are composed of cartilage, the same flexible substance you find in your ears and nose. Eventually, these bones harden to form 26 bones in your child's feet that will last a lifetime. A shoe that is too rigid or even too tight can effectively change the shape of your child's foot. This is why most physicians believe that barefoot walking is best for small children, because it allows for the natural development of the foot.
Around 70% of foot problems come from wearing the wrong footwear or ill-fitting shoes.
3. What are the most important things when trying to find a children's shoe for pre-walkers (infants) and then when they start walking?
Choose a shoe that gives stability and protection to feet. An ideal shoe should be soft and flexible, with breathable leather uppers and a fully adjustable fastening for a snug fit. The shoes should have a smooth bottom, like the palm of your hand. The smooth sole means less friction so the shoe won't grab the floor, possibly causing your child to fall.
Shoes that are too sticky also tend to change a child's stride or gait as they have to lift their feet to move about. Choose a shoe that most mimics barefoot walking.
Children's feet sweat a lot so don’t buy synthetic shoes as they won't allow your child's feet to breathe. Synthetic materials tend to not stretch and the resulting pressure could damage a child's growing foot.
4. What should parents know that they don't about children's feet and shoes?
Don’t let your child wear hand me down shoes. Because most shoes mould to the foot, wearing hand me downs has an affect on the shape of your child’s foot.
Baby shoes, especially shoes made of leather form to a child's foot once they are worn for a while. A person's gait is much like their fingerprint; it is unique to them. If a child wears hand-me-down shoes, his or her walking pattern may be affected since his or her feet are now trying to form to the gait of another child.