Children’s Foot Care: When to Take Your Child to a Podiatrist?
People tend to associate podiatry visits with working-age and older adults, and to be honest there’s some truth to that.
But while kids might not experience foot problems at quite the same rate as adults do, it’s extremely important for children’s foot care that any potential issues are examined, evaluated and, if necessary, treated as soon as possible.
We don’t wish to scare you. In fact, many childhood foot problems will go away with easy home care, or even just on their own in time. But if a problem does need treatment, counteracting it early—during these critical early years when your child is still growing—can help prevent longer-term issues from setting in and continuing to affect them in adulthood.
But how will you know if and when it’s time to take your child in for an appointment? Here are a few important “red flags” to watch out for:
You Notice Your Child Standing or Walking Abnormally
Certainly, there’s a bit of a judgment call to be made about what “abnormally” means. After all, young kids’ feet and walking gaits look quite different from the feet and gait they’ll develop as they get older. After all, there’s a reason they’re called “toddlers.”
That being said, keep an eye on things like:
- Does your child tend to walk flat on their feet, or on tiptoes?
- Does your child have noticeable arches, or flat feet? Or do the arches flatten when bearing weight and appear at other times?
- Do the toes point mostly straight ahead when they stand and walk, or do they appear turned excessively inward or outward?
- Do you notice any other unusual gait patterns, such as limping, bowed legs, knock knees, high-stepping, etc.?
It’s important to point out here that not all of these signs necessarily indicate a serious problem! For example, flat feet are common in children under age 5, since the supporting ligaments and tendons aren’t strong enough yet to form a permanent arch.
However, bringing your child in for an evaluation is still strongly recommended. If there is a more serious problem going on—or your child just isn’t “outgrowing” a problem as expected—we want to identify it sooner rather than later.
You Notice Other Foot Problems
Little feet are susceptible to injuries, infections, and problems such as ingrown toenails, plantar warts, cuts, puncture wounds, athlete’s foot, foul odor and many others—and they won’t always tell you about them, unfortunately.
Plus, their feet grow fast. It’s not unusual to have to buy new shoes for your child 2-4 times per year. If you let your child wear tight shoes for too long, they are much more likely to develop injuries and other problems.
So, make sure you are checking your child’s feet regularly (ideally once per day for young children, and as needed for older kids who are more responsible), and checking the fit of their shoes at least monthly (if not once every couple of weeks).
If you spot anything you’re concerned about, give us a call and we can help you determine if an appointment is needed. Problems like warts, ingrown nails, and other infections should be addressed as soon as possible for proper children’s foot care.
Your Child Directly Complains About Foot or Ankle Pain
Pain is never normal. Feet should not hurt—not for anyone, and certainly not for a child!
If your child comes to you complaining about any kind of pain, stiffness, soreness, or other problems with their feet or ankles, please take them seriously!
Again, in most cases the root problem can be addressed through conservative measures. Maybe the problem is that your child’s shoes aren’t the right size, or they need a short break from rigorous athletic participation.
But you will want to have a pediatric foot and ankle expert to help you accurately identify the fundamental causes and recommend an effective treatment plan, whatever that may be. That way, you minimize the risk that your child will continue to hurt themselves, or even develop chronic pain.
You Observe the Indirect Signs of Foot Pain
Unfortunately, kids aren’t always completely honest or forthcoming about the symptoms they’re going through, especially if they feel they are “not a big deal” or they are scared they might have to go to the doctor or spend time away from their favorite activities.
So, it’s on you as a parent to keep your eyes open for some of the most telltale signs that a child is suffering from hidden foot or ankle pain, including:
- Withdrawal from (or reduced participation in) physical activities they typically enjoy.
- Being unable to keep up with peers or parents anymore without an obvious explanation.
- Frequent requests to be carried.
- Increase in tripping, falling, or other difficulties while walking or running.
- Being unwilling to show you their feet.
Consider Your Family History
Each pair of feet is unique to the individual. But that doesn’t mean that family history and genetic inheritance don’t have roles to play. In fact, there are often a great deal of developmental similarities between parents and their children as far as feet are concerned.
If mom, dad, grandpa or grandma have a history of foot problems—even problems that developed much later in life, such as bunions or flat feet—there’s a good chance that your child is at greater risk as well.
Your Child’s Feet Deserve the Best
Did you know that, by the time the average person is 80 years old, they’ll have walked more than 100,000 miles in their lifetime—enough to circumnavigate the globe four times over?
Simply put, feet need to hold up for a lifetime, so it’s important to ensure that your children get set on a healthy trajectory! If they are experiencing any difficulties, you should take them to a physician who specializes in children’s foot care.