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Anna Beetham Outlines Common Kids Foot Problems [Guest Post]
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As part of our commitment to kids' foot health, Bobux is always consulting experts like Melbourne-based podiatrist Anna Beetham on the latest foot research, technology and advice.With 15 years industry experience, including at the Commonwealth Games and with elite sports teams, we’re honoured to have Anna as a Bobux podiatry ambassador!
This fruitful partnership allows us to promote Anna's expertise in the form of article contributions like this. This is her second post, following her popular debut, entitled 6 Signs Your Child's Feet are Developing Properly. We hope it's insightful.
When kids start walking they can often appear uncoordinated and off-balance. Once they get the hang of being vertical, the muscles and ligaments in their legs and feet get stronger and work more effectively and then they’re off and running before you know it!
Sometimes, however, kids experience problems with their legs and feet, which makes mastering the art of walking a little more difficult. As a general rule, the earlier any issues are picked up and diagnosed, the better the outcome so it’s important to seek podiatrist advice should any of these problems persist or worsen in severity.
Common Kids Foot Problems
Your child’s arch will start appearing around 2-3 years. Until then a flat, fat, low-arched foot is normal. Beyond this age, your child’s feet should not be overly rolled inwards. If the wear on their shoes is more on the inside of the heel (closest to the midline of the body) or if there’s a marked difference between feet, a podiatrist can help determine treatment and/or footwear recommendations.
In-toeing (“pigeon toed”)
When one or both of your child’s feet are turned inwards, in-toeing is usually seen in younger children still mastering the art of balance and normal walking. It tends to resolve itself. However there are times when it can lead to trouble walking. If you notice one foot is turned in more, you child tripping or having trouble walking then see a podiatrist. Note: If your child habitually sits in the “W” position, this tends to increase the in-toed gait and should be avoided.
Out-toeing (“duck/penguin walking”)
Where your child’s feet turn outwards, this is often caused by tight muscles, over pronated feet or weakness in muscles. Often some simple stretching, strength exercises or advice on the way they walk (simple gait exercises) can help reduce this. If your child exhibits an asymmetrical out-toed gait then a podiatrist visit is recommended.
Children that walk on their tip toes most of the time without heel contact are called ‘toe walkers’ and are often more comfortable up on their toes. They might even be unable to reach the ground with their heels and I recommend getting an early podiatrist diagnosis as to why this is occurring and appropriate treatment.
Hallux Abducto Valgus (Bunions)
The bony prominences on the side of the big toe joint (less frequently the little toe joint). They are most commonly seen in adults. In children these need to be treated as soon as possible to prevent them getting bigger and becoming painful. Bunions can be hereditary but more due to the foot type rather than the bunion itself. They are mainly caused by hypermobile joints (loose/floppy joints), muscle imbalance and excessive pronation, the latter which causes increased pressure on the big toe joint, preventing normal function.
Tripping over when walking or running
This can be associated with in-toeing, poor muscle strength or poor footwear. If your child repeatedly trips when active, watch them when they are barefoot. If they continue to trip or fall get a health professional to help assess the cause. If they improve without shoes then a change of shoes is recommended.
Pain with walking or limping
Any pain or repeated limping in a child should be diagnosed by a trusted paediatric professional. If your child has mentioned the same area more than once, it’s best to get this assessed. “Growing pains” are a debated topic but children going through rapid growth periods can have general aching in their legs that come and go after large amounts of activity. An injury or pathology causing pain or limping is more specific and will need assessment.
Trouble keeping up with peers of similar age (or reluctance to walk when out and about)
This can be related to general weakness in the lower leg muscles, lack of physical activity, poor footwear or biomechanical foot problems such as over pronation (excessively rolled in/flat feet) and tight calves. A strength and stretching program prescribed by your podiatrist or physio (ensure they have experience with children) can help and a footwear assessment by your podiatrist or trusted specialist shoe store.
Pain in hips, knees or back
As with foot pain, any pain in these areas must be assessed. A general pain that seems “all over my leg, body” can be associated with muscle fatigue and during rapid growth phases & tends to come and go. Repeated finger point pain, specific to one or more areas is a sign there may be an injury or something wrong. Seeing a physiotherapist is recommended in conjunction with your podiatrist.
Toes that cross over or are clawed
Clawed or crossed over digits can be hereditary and unless they are giving the child pain or rubbing on footwear I recommend they be left alone. Ensure footwear is well fitted with no stitching that may rub the toes and that nails are well-trimmed.
A common problem in children, particularly in “nail pickers or biters”, children’s nails are much softer and can rip easily. They tend to leave jagged edges that can pierce or irritate the skin down the side of the nail. Once punctured there is a portal for bacteria, which can lead to infected ingrown toenails.
A podiatrist can remedy this by gently removing the section of nail and clearing and dressing the area. You will be advised to soak the nail in salt water and apply an antiseptic cream such as Betadine. On rare occasions, ingrown nails become a frequent occurrence due to nail shape or habitual picking/tearing/biting. A small surgical procedure will resolve this.
Plantar warts (verruca)
Common in children who swim regularly or share changing rooms or showers, verrucas are caused by the papilloma virus. They are highly contagious and I suggest wearing thongs in the shower if a family member has one. To treat these you can either see your podiatrist, dermatologist or GP. I recommend not using Liquid Nitrogen as this is painful, not very effective and traumatic for most children. Your podiatrist will likely use a solution applied directly to the plantar wart that aims to gently traumatise the skin and stimulate the immune system to fight the papilloma virus. This painless process can take at least a month with weekly treatments.
A highly contagious fungal infection that affects the feet and more common in warmer months, Tinea thrives on a warm, moist environment such as socks and shoes and in changing rooms at swimming pools, sports grounds etc.
It is not a serious condition and can often be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal cream. Sometimes the fungal infection can spread to the nails (Onychomycosis) and should be treated with a specific nail solution. I’d also recommend airing footwear in the sun, spraying the inside of shoes with an anti-fungal spray (Bosistos tea-tree for example) as well as adding a capful of Canestan Wash to washing loads till fungi has been eradicated.
With these common afflictions in mind, make sure you're supporting your child's foot growth. Barefoot is best for the formative years but when this isn't possible, be sure to choose shoes that allow freedom for little feet to grow and strengthen. Check out the latest Bobux range, Play, today...