Every parent knows how quickly a child goes from taking their first clumsy steps to becoming an unstoppable athlete. When they first begin walking and running, we don’t expect them to get the hang of it right away. But as they grow older, there are a number of issues that can cause concern for parents. Most conditions that only become evident after a child begins walking are not cause for major concern, but it is still a good idea to know what sort of issues could arise, and understand the medical reasons behind them. Here are some of the most common paediatric foot problems.
When they are very young, most babies will not have particularly pronounced arches in their feet, and will develop more obvious arches as they grow. But this is not always the case, and feet that have little or no arches can be an alarming sight for parents, who may fear that their child could have a developmental issue. This issue is often brought to light after a child starts walking and parents realise that the child’s ankles seem to bend inward, giving the impression of weak ankles.
In reality, flat feet are not usually a major worry for medical professionals. Flat feet are not inherently problematic, and should not affect a person’s quality of life in any way. It is only if the child begins to experience foot or leg pain that the side-effects of flat feet will be treated. There are a number of ways that flat feet can lead to pain, such as pronation, which is the inward rolling of the foot while walking. If the child develops an issue like this, it is typically the side-effect that will be treated (e.g. with special shoes) and not the flat feet themselves, as they are really not very problematic in the grand scheme of things.
Verrucas are contagious warts typically found on the bottom of the feet. While people in all demographics can experience verrucas, they are particularly common in young children. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, young children have not had time to build up their immune system, and so they are more susceptible to showing signs of these sorts of infections. Furthermore, their skin is not as thick or strong as that of an adult, which makes it easier for the virus to enter through a break in the skin. Thirdly, children run around a lot more, often barefoot and on dirty, uneven surfaces, which puts them at greater risk of exposure.
Verrucas are easily treatable at home with over the counter remedies, and do not pose any real risk to the child. Still, it is best to treat them early, as they can spread and make the situation more uncomfortable.
Heel pain can manifest in children for a number of reasons, although it is most commonly attributed to either the overstretching of the Plantar fascia, the ligaments that connect the toes to the heels, or the Achilles tendon, which stretches from your heels to your calf muscles. This is usually a result of either a growth spurt, or of the child running around a lot. Either way, it is also not a major cause for concern and is usually something that comes and goes over time. That being said, things like massaging the affected muscles or using hot baths to loosen them up can lessen the effects felt by your child. If the pain persists, it may be necessary to visit a specialist, who will examine the child’s muscles and likely suggest some stretches to ease the pain.
Toe walking is literally when the child walks around primarily on the tips of their toes. This is not uncommon in any child, especially young children, so it is usually nothing to worry about. However, if the child walks almost exclusively on their toes, particularly after the age of 3, you should have them examined by a specialist, as it may be indicative of musculoskeletal issues or even conditions such as autism.
Before babies start to walk, the angle at which their legs rest is rarely remarkable. But once they have taken their first steps and begin to become more adept at it, some parents may notice that their child is walking with their feet turned inward. This is known as in-toeing, or pigeon toes, and is usually the result of a skeletal distortion. If this is a behaviour you have observed in your child, it is worth having them examined. However, the child will often grow out of the condition as they develop, so don’t be disheartened if your doctor suggests a wait-and-see approach.