Between daily walking, various activities, and all different types of footwear, our feet really endure a lot. While foot issues and injuries tend to be associated with adults, children can also experience infections and injury. In fact, kids can struggle with many of the same conditions as their grown-up counterparts.
Types of Childhood Foot Problems
Children are susceptible to a variety of foot conditions that can be treated by a podiatrist.
- Skin conditions. A child might experience warts, calluses, and blisters. Kids can also get ingrown toenails and even athlete’s foot. These can quickly escalate from minor to severe if they go untreated, which often happens due to the fact that kids aren’t always bothered by minor discomfort. In addition, parents don’t usually think to pay the same amount of attention to the feet as they do other physical aspects of a child’s health.
- Foot and ankle pain. Children can experience foot and ankle pain for several different reasons, including conditions like plantar fasciitis, flat feet, or even stress fractures. If a child is active in sports, they are more at risk for foot and ankle injuries, including sprains and breaks. Another foot complication children can incur is a distinctive heel pain caused by Sever’s disease.
Simple Ways to Prevent Foot Problems in Children
As a parent, there are some steps you can take to ensure their feet stay as healthy as the rest of their body. Here are some tips that apply to children of different ages:
- If you have a baby, carefully check their feet. Look for any abnormalities, including club foot. The sooner some conditions are noticed, the quicker they can be treated and resolved.
- For both babies and toddlers, cover their feet lightly. Tight covers can prevent babies from moving freely and delay foot development.
- When your child first starts to learn to walk, and even long after they know how, it’s a good idea to let them go shoeless indoors. Walking barefoot will strengthen the muscles of the feet, which can prevent them from injury later on.
- For children over the age of 2, be on the lookout for “toe walking.” This is normal for new walkers, but a child who does this as they grow older could be signaling a deeper issue like a problem with the nervous system.
- For kids of all ages, be sure to cut their toenails straight across. This can prevent the painful experience of ingrown toenails. It’s also a good idea to keep their feet clean and dry to prevent bacterial infection, especially during the summer where kids are swimming and running around outside more.
How to Find Appropriate Shoes for Your Child
When it’s time to buy new shoes for a child, make sure the shoes fit properly. Many foot and ankle problems, including blisters, corns, and ingrown toenails, occur from wearing incorrect footwear.
A child’s shoes should always have some room in the front—there should be enough for toes to wiggle around a bit. The heel of the shoe should also be firmly cradled. If you have never taken the time to get your child’s feet professionally measured at a shoe store, it is a good idea to do so regularly to keep up with growth and quality foot care.
Children also need appropriate footwear for activities. If your child is into sports, they should always have footwear designated for that particular activity. Sending a child to soccer practice in their school shoes, for example, can put them at risk for strain or injury.
Keep Things Clean
Appropriate hygiene is an important aspect of foot health. Children should wash their feet regularly, while also being sure to dry them completely. If your children are very young, help them learn how to wash with soap and water, and to dry as soon as they are out of the bath. Older kids should also be reminded to dry their feet completely before putting on socks and shoes.
When children participate in outdoor activities, foot hygiene must still be maintained. At the beach or poolside, always rinse their feet clean after swimming or playing on the sand. This is also a good method after walking barefoot on concrete or any other situation where a child’s feet come into contact with foreign objects or a potentially dirty surface.
Finally, make sure your child’s feet are protected when they walk anywhere where the feet could get injured. This includes walking on rocks, tanbark, or uneven surfaces on land or under water. Invest in shoes for every occasion—including water shoes for beach or camping trips.
Pay Attention to Any Signs of Pain and Discomfort
Take note of any changes to your child’s behavior. If you notice a difference in their gait, or if they fuss about socks and shoes being uncomfortable, pay attention. Even if there aren’t any outward signs of distress, they could have a strain or sprain. Irritable moods or a change in eating/sleeping patterns are other signs of pain or discomfort. Younger children especially are not always able to express what they are feeling physically.
Know When to Visit a Podiatrist
Whether your child has incurred an injury from playing sports or is experiencing a concerning rash, there are many reasons why it is a good idea to visit a podiatrist. A pediatrician is not the same as a podiatrist—the latter is well-versed in a wide variety of conditions specific to the feet, and you can often see one directly without a referral.
In Central Texas, Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists are ready and waiting to help guide you through any foot-related complications your child is experiencing. We have the education and expertise to keep your whole family safe and healthy. Call us today to schedule your appointment.