As long as the baby’s feet are healthy at birth most newborns won’t require special care for their feet; and caring for your baby’s feet is much like caring for the rest of their body.
Don’t worry if your baby’s feet and toenails look discolored, wrinkled or even have flaky, peeling skin when they are born. After nine months in the womb, their toes are bound to look a bit different from yours! Your pediatrician will look for any obvious abnormalities in your baby’s feet and legs, and will let you know what to do if they find anything of concern and should refer you to a podiatrist — the specialist best qualified to evaluate and treat foot and ankle issues, from skin to bone.
Use baby nail clippers to keep your child’s toenails trimmed, cutting straight across to prevent ingrown toenails (many people do it when the baby is fast asleep — less wiggling!) Be sure to thoroughly dry baby’s feet after a bath, and choose soft socks that don’t wrinkle or bunch to keep her feet warm and protected. Some pediatricians recommend to just peel off the tip of the growing nail, but you could peel off the entire nail (this happened to my baby at one of our first pediatrician visits … ouch!) so better to use the nail clippers.
When your baby starts to walk, bare feet are best inside the house as babies are learning the finer points of getting around. Outside, put them in a good quality children’s shoes, lace or Velcro, to give them support and protection. By the age of 18 months your child should be examined by a podiatrist specializing in pediatrics, and shoe choices to give the best support for your child’s feet can be recommended.
If foot problems run in your family, it is especially important to have the young child examined by a podiatrist. Many foot deformities inherited from parents and grandparents can cause excess strain on muscles, ligaments and joints causing children to experience mechanically induced pain that can often be easily treated by a podiatrist. If early intervention is initiated a podiatrist can often prevent problems from carrying on and worsening into adulthood.
Absent any significant injury, it is not normal for children in their formative years to experience pain in their feet, legs and other body parts that are commonly attributed to “growing pains” – the soft bones in children’s feet are prone to stresses and injuries specific to their age group and require medical attention.
One of the common concerns that many parents have about their children’s feet is flat feet or the absence of an arch. A baby’s foot can be fat, flaccid, floppy or flexible, but between 18 months and 3 years of age, and by then the arch should begin to form. At three years of age, your child should be getting another podiatric evaluation.
While flat feet in kids is not in and of itself a cause for significant concern, if a child is experiencing foot pain, flat feet is a common cause. There is also a chance that flat feet in childhood may lead to foot problems later in life due to a child’s developing body using other muscles, tendons and bones to compensate for the lack of support in the structure of the foot. We recommend that your flat-footed child wear prescription children’s orthotics and supportive shoes to help ensure that the foot develops in a way that is consistent with proper weight bearing later in life, and hopefully help to avoid other issues such as knee and hip problems.
Many parents are concerned with whether or not their child’s foot is developing properly when they observe their children angling their toes toward or away from each other as they learn to walk. Almost all children who exhibit mild in-toeing or out-toeing under the age of eight grow out of this pattern of walking. For very mild in-toeing and out-toeing prescription orthotics can provide subtle correction that won’t harm the child’s natural foot growth. Any other treatments of in-toeing and out-toeing correction should only be attempted under the direct supervision of a podiatrist. If your child has very severe in-toeing or out-toeing and their foot seems to be fixed in place (you can’t straighten the child’s foot without forcing it) you should make an appointment for your child to see a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Toe walking refers to a condition where a person walks on his or her toes, or the ball of the foot. This condition is commonly observed in children who are just beginning to walk. Most children learn to walk normally by the age of three. Different factors may contribute to toe walking. If your child is still toe walking by the age of three, it is recommended to be examined by a podiatrist.
Your feet are the foundation for your body, for a lifetime! So just as you take your children for regular health checkups, you should take them to a podiatrist for regular podiatric evaluations. Good milestones for your child’s visits to the podiatrist are 18 months, 3 years and 5 years of age. The earlier a condition is treated, the quicker the recovery and the less the damage.