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Everything you wanted to know about your child's foot health

A note from expert Anna Beetham

Bobux is genuinely passionate about our little ones’ feet. They’re committed to making shoes that nurture natural foot development, and they want to look after these precious parcels of puppy fat as they develop into the platforms from which joyful steps are taken.

Their mission is for your kids to have happy feet that are free from pain and able to develop naturally. The kids’ shoe brand does things a bit differently and I guess that is why I was drawn to them (along with a slight bias: Being born and bred in the land of the long white cloud).

But even before I became a podiatrist and mum of two little pairs of feet, I had heard how dedicated this amazing New Zealand company was to looking after kids’ feet.

So when they asked me to be their podiatry ambassador, I didn’t hesitate. I am extremely proud to be even a small part of such an amazing company.

Bobux is so amazing, in fact, that they want to arm you with all the information you need to understand your children’s foot health. So, they’ve teamed up with me to create The Ultimate Guide To Children’s Foot Health. An ambitious project, I know, but trust me: our little ones’ feet are in good hands with Bobux!

Let me guide you through all you need to know about how kids’ feet develop, why barefoot is best, how to choose the right shoes for your precious little one’s feet, and what to look for in a pair of kicks as your child’s feet rapidly navigate through development.

Anna Beetham
Podiatrist, BHSC (POD), MSMA

Benefits of going barefoot

A kids’ shoe company telling you to keep your kids barefoot? Sounds strange doesn’t it? Well, no matter how strange it sounds, Bobux listens to the expertise of podiatrists like me and we know that going barefoot is the best thing you can do for your child’s feet.

When they’re babies, kids’ feet are initially made up of cartilage with not a bone in sight. The bones develop over several years and heavy, rigid shoes can impair that development, as instead of growing into a natural shape, the feet conform to the shape of the shoes.

The challenge for Bobux is to design shoes that mimic the freedom of bare feet while providing protection from the everyday hazards of the environment.

Easy, right?

Read: 5 reasons why your kids should go barefoot.

The 4 Stages of Children's Foot Development

In the first six years of a child’s life, the physical development that takes place in their little feet is astonishing.

A pair of fully-developed feet have 33 joints, over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, and a whopping 26 bones - That’s a quarter of all the bones in the human body! Crazy, isn’t it?

With all the developmental changes kids go through during the first decade of their lives, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to shoes. Through thorough research and consultation with trusted podiatrists, Bobux learnt that kids go through four stages of development: Pre-walking & Crawling, First-walker, Toddler, and Preschoolers & Kids.

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Kids will develop at their own rate, so instead of designing their shoes based on age, Bobux builds their shoes uniquely, based on this stages. Bobux shoes cater to the evolving activities and foot-health needs of kids as they power through each stage of development.

We design shoes for children at very different stages, meeting their usage needs across a wide range of activity, while also supporting the healthy, natural development of their feet. We do this by breaking our range into 4 distinct ‘stages’.

Soft Sole

Newborn + Prewalkers
Not walking or crawling yet. Sitting and some crawling taking place.
Sizes NB-5XL

Step up

First walker
Cruising, assisted walking, and walking - crawling on occasion.
Sizes 18 - 22

I-WALK

Toddler
Walking, running, jumping -- being a chaotic ball of energy.
Sizes 22 - 26

Kid+

Preschooler + kids
Running, jumping, kicking, climbing. Full range of activity.
Sizes 27 - 33

Read more about this breakdown of kids developmental stages.

Also, read this document for more information about children’s foot development from birth to walking.

Finally, you can check out this comprehensive resource on children’s foot health from the Better Health Channel.

How do I know my child's feet are developing properly?

It’s a common question among parents: When exactly will your child’s feet take their adult form completely, and how do you know their development is on the right track?

For starters, the bones in children’s feet won’t reach maturity until about 13-15 years of age for girls, and 15-18 years of age for boys.

18 years is a long time to wait before you know your child will have healthy feet for life, so here are some signs you can look out for to tell if your child’s foot development is on the right track.

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FOOT SHAPE

Before they start walking, babies’ feet are pudgy, fat and physically unrefined. Their bones and muscles aren’t yet developed enough to support an arch, so their feet appear flat with a fatty pad where the arch will one day be. So don’t worry about your baby’s flat feet just yet - their arches will begin to develop when they’re around 2-3 years old, and you should see a normal arch in your child’s foot when they’re around 7 years old.

As their feet grow and get stronger, and they become more confident walking, you’ll notice the features of their feet change. Over time, the foot will appear leaner, the fatty layer beneath their feet will start to disappear, their achilles will become more defined and their toes will spread.

When they’re around Preschool age, your child’s feet will be more dexterous with a defined arch and a leaner shape. They’re starting to look mature, not too dissimilar to an adult’s feet. They’re strong and built for a range of activities. It will be a few years before they’re fully developed, but the days of pudgy, round feet are behind them!

WALKING + KNEE POSITION

Children typically start to walk between 9-18 months. They will usually appear flat-footed, with their feet slightly turned in and they have a classically broad gait, bent knees and bowed legs.

As your child’s strength improves and their lower limbs continue to develop, these positions will change. It might even be adulthood before your child settles into their natural, straight-legged position!

MILESTONES

Children will learn a huge range of activities as they grow up. Certain milestone activities can give an indication of how their development is progressing, so you know they’re on the right track!

At 2-3 years, look out for milestones such as confident walking, climbing onto and down from furniture without assistance and walking on tiptoes.

Between 4-5 years, children should be confidently walking and running around obstacles, changing directions and stopping suddenly. Children of this age should also be able to go up and down stairs one step at a time.

At 6 years, children should be confidently running, able to balance on a beam or log and learning to skip with a skipping rope.

But remember: Stage not age. Every child is unique and will develop at their own rate.

Check out my post: 6 Signs Your Kids’ Feet Are Developing Properly for more milestones to look out for.

Common Kids' Foot Problems

A more testing part of parenting comes when things don’t seem to go as planned. How do you know if your child’s feet are on track for normal and natural foot development?

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Plenty of parents are concerned with flat feet in their children, but you needn’t worry prematurely; as we said earlier: your child’s arch won’t start to show until about 2-3 years of age. By the age of 7, you should be able to tell if your child’s arch is normal, high or flat.

a kids foot health diagram illustrating arch position

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Other signs of potential developmental problems can include:

In-toeing:
When one or both feet are turned inwards. This is fairly common when kids are learning to walk and tends to resolve itself. If you notice the in-toeing is causing trouble walking or if one foot is turned in more, pay a visit to a trusted podiatrist.

Out-toeing:
When your child’s feet turn outwards. Often, some simple exercises can help reduce this, but if your child exhibits an asymmetrical out-toed gait, we recommend visiting a podiatrist.

Toe walking:
When your child walks on their tiptoes. If your child seems to walk more comfortably on their tiptoes than with their heels on the ground, an early podiatrist diagnosis is recommended.

Bunions:
Bony prominences, typically on the side of the big toe joint. While common in adults, in children these need to be treated as early as possible to prevent them getting bigger and more painful.

Tripping over:
This can be associated with in-toeing, poor muscle strength or poor footwear. If you notice your child tripping when they’re wearing shoes, see how they fare barefoot. If their stability improves, a change of shoes is recommended - they’re existing pair might be the wrong size or too heavy and rigid.

Limping:
We recommend visiting a trusted pediatric professional if you notice your child experiencing repeated pain or limping.

Reluctance to walk or struggle to keep up:
There are many different potential causes for this. Talk to a podiatrist or physiotherapist with paediatric experience. They might prescribe strengthening exercises or specialist footwear.

Pain in hips, knees or back:
As with foot pain, any pain in these areas should be assessed by a trusted physiotherapist and podiatrist.

Crossed or clawed toes:
Clawed or crossed-over toes tend to be hereditary, so unless they’re causing your child pain or rubbing on footwear, its recommended they be left alone. Ensure footwear is well fitted and allows room for toes to spread naturally, and keep your child’s toenails trimmed.

Ingrown Toenails:
These are common in children as their nails are much softer and can rip easily. A podiatrist can remedy this by gently removing the section of nail and dressing the area.

Verrucas:
Also known as plantar warts, verrucas are highly contagious so we recommend wearing thongs/flip flops/jandals in the shower if you notice your child with one.

Choosing The Right Shoe For Your Child

If you’ve followed the Ultimate Foot Health Guide right from the start, you should now know a bit more about stages of development and the benefits of embracing the barefoot philosophy. You should also know how important it is to choose the right shoes for your child.

Most shoes are built on lasts, or molds that determine the shape of your shoes. Once made from hand-carved wood, lasts are now made using a plastic polymer that creates a 3D foot shape around which your shoes are designed. Put simply, lasts form the fit of your shoe.

Lasts have historically taken the shape of an adult’s foot. So when it came to making kids’ shoes, manufacturers simply scaled the lasts down to a child’s size, with little to no consideration for the unique shape of their feet.

Not Bobux.

Bobux has designed their own lasts based on the anatomical shape of kids feet across the several stages of development. The final products came from intensive research, testing - and more testing. It was the right thing to do; children who wear Bobux are wearing shoes that were expertly made especially for their unique little feet.

Read: These five important reasons to buy the right shoes for your child.

Newborns & Pre-Walkers | Soft Sole

Newborns have soft, chubby and flexible feet. Their delicate nature makes it important that you choose a pair of shoes that will protect their growing feet, while allowing them to strengthen and develop through kicking, bending their toes and feet and, eventually, crawling.

Soft Soles are made from breathable, flexible and ultra-soft leather and suede. In a pair of these, your baby’s feet are kept snug and healthy, and free to flex, move and grip naturally.

Learn more about Soft Soles here.

First Walkers | Step Up

Once your child is toddling around unassisted (albeit, a bit awkwardly!) you’ll need to choose some shoes that are up to the task of this new activity. First walkers have a unique foot shape: they typically don’t have much of an arch formed, and their feet are generally quite round.

The Step Up range was made especially for first walkers and their uniquely-shaped feet. They’re as flexible and lightweight as a shoe can get, enabling unrestricted development, while their shape reflects that of the round, chubby feet that wear them. The textiles used in this range include soft, breathable leather and cotton to keep growing feet comfortable and healthy.

Learn more about Step Up

Toddlers | I-Walk

When choosing a shoe for your toddler, keep in mind that although they’re now engaging in a wide range of high-action activities, their feet are still developing - so they need shoes that are hard wearing but that won’t restrict the natural movement of their vulnerable feet.

The I-Walk range boasts a more robust sole than a Step Up shoe because as your child gained confidence on their feet, they also gained a lot more strength! With that in mind, I-Walk shoes were designed to provide the durability and flexibility kids’ feet need at this stage of development, allowing active feet to move naturally. High-quality textiles withstand the everyday battering toddlers put their shoes through, while also providing breathability and comfort.

Learn more about I-Walk

Pre-Schoolers and Kids | Kid+

Up until they’re 7 years old, children’s feet are still going through a vital process of development. We know the schoolyard takes its toll on kids’ shoes, but it’s as important now as ever that you don’t compromise on quality when choosing shoes for your child - even if they’re thrashing their shoes on concrete throughout the school day!

The Kid+ range allows for optimal flexion and lightweight with enough support to protect kids’ feet from the impact of hard surfaces. Like all Bobux shoes, foot-health is at the core of every Kid+ style, so you’ll find quality textiles and ergonomic design in every pair.

Learn more about Kid+

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Choosing Shoes For Active Kids


The right shoes will nurture your child’s natural foot development, improve their balance and spatial awareness, and aid growth. Shoes are even more important for active kids since you can expect a lot more wear and tear. When choosing a shoe for your energetic little pocket rocket, you need something you can depend on.

Pay special attention to the sole. Active children need soft, flexible, durable soles that move and bend with their feet as they play. A good sole will allow your child to walk naturally, providing flex and traction where it’s needed most.

Active kids’ shoes should also be resilient: protecting vulnerable feet during high-impact play, and standing the test of time no matter the battering they might take.

They should be made from materials that are not only durable, but that let active feet breathe and move in comfort.

In the Bobux Collection, you’ll find the Dimension trainers. Tried and tested for active kids, these high-performance shoes boast an ergonomic design for optimal foot health and comfort. Featuring a high-flex sole and ultra-durable toe-cap, these trainers were made for play.

The Dimension also utilises a twin-faced textile made from polyester for durability, and Merino for its natural moisture-wicking, odour-eating, temperature-regulating properties. So even when your child is pushing their body to the limit, their feet are comfortable and healthy.

Learn more about the Dimension trainers here.

Another range perfect for energetic kids, learn more about the Aktiv range here.

Anna Beetham’s Final Thoughts

So there you have it… The ultimate guide to children’s foot health!

Your children’s feet are precious and vital to their everyday function and long-term health. Ensuring they are looked after from the moment they are born will reduce their chances of foot pathology in later life (and trust me when I say that many of my adult patients’ foot problems stem from poor footwear choices in their youth!).

Your children only have one pair of feet. Start by treating them with the care they deserve and set your children up to make healthy shoe choices themselves (which happens very quickly!).

Bobux shoes are designed and engineered with little feet in mind - and I don’t mean scaled-down adult feet. They invest time, energy and resources into developing shoes with a passion for helping your child’s feet on their journey of development. They’re committed to making every little pair of feet happy and healthy in their Bobux shoes.

This is why my kids wear Bobux and why I can wholeheartedly recommend them to each and every parent.

Anna Beetham
Podiatrist, BHSC (POD), MSMA
Podiatry Ambassador Bobux