Feet problems in children
We are well aware of the need to take our children to have their eyes and teeth checked. But what about your child’s feet?
They are still-developing and will have to carry the entire weight of the body through a lifetime.
- What are the potential problems with feet?
- How can I tell if my child is at risk?
- Where can I go for more information?
When your child is born their feet are normally composed of soft and flexible cartilage. As your child matures this cartilage slowly turns to bone, a process called ossification. During this period, children’s feet are at particular risk from injury due to increased stress and strain from activities such as football and dancing.
In addition, some problems can be passed down genetically. Flatfoot is one of the most common foot conditions, affecting over 40% of pre-school children. Normally, this does not become an issue. However, some children with flat feet have a tendency to overpronate, or roll their ankle inwards, when running.
Problems with a child’s feet, whether genetic or as a result of trauma, can initially go unnoticed and cause very little pain. But if untreated they could cause trouble in later life, leading to back problems, tendonitis in the knee or having to wear shin splints.
Observe your child’s walking patterns. Do they turn their feet in or out? Check their shoes. Do they tend to wear them out more on one side? If you are concerned, then you can make an appointment with a specialist (orthotist), who can assess your child’s feet and gait. These assessments can be very detailed and include gait analysis and computerised scans
How are foot problems managed? In most instances, foot conditions or injuries will improve naturally without any undue harm occurring. However, it would be useful to diagnose in case there is an underlying issue to ensure no long-term damage. Options for management are:
- Avoid activities that cause pain
- Foot stretching and strengthening exercises
- Orthotic insoles
- Sometimes it is just a case of keeping an eye on the situation and re-testing in the future.
If you have concerns about your child’s feet, you can read more on the website of Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrist. Or speak to your GP and he can refer you to an orthotist or orthopaedic consultant.
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Source: Martin Pfeiffer et al, Prevalence of Flat Foot in Preschool-Aged Children, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006;118;634
Photography: Paul & Aline Burland @Flickr