Should Your Baby be Wearing Shoes? - Jeffrie C. Leibovitz, DPM

Baby’s Foot Care: What to Do About Shoes (and Why Grandparents Matter)

We understand that there is plenty that new parents can concern themselves with when they have a child. This is even more true if the child in question is their first!

Once parents have the initial experience, things tend to relax a bit. And by the time the third child comes, parents are more than happy to let them play around abandoned missile silos.

Of the questions new parents may have, baby’s foot care is one that can (and should) come up. When should my child start to walk? What kinds of shoes should they wear, and when? How can I tell when there may be a problem?

Fortunately, you have an Indianapolis podiatrist right here to provide some insight—and some potential family assistance, as well!

Baby Feet Are Highly Moldable

There is a big difference between young feet and adult feet—and it’s not just a matter of size. Almost 50% of the bones are not visible in an infant. Take a look at the x-ray images to the right :

From birth through early childhood, our feet do not have nearly as much structure as they do in adulthood. This is normal. We don’t really need features such as arches until we start walking, and these open spaces, as seen on the x ray, change from soft cartilage to bone, and strengthen as we learn to get around.

It is during this time of growth and development, however, where problems may occur. Arches might not fully form, or growth can become askew.

The bad news is that these problems can become long-lasting or permanent if they “set” while the feet are growing and developing.

The good news is that addressing these issues while the feet are still in a highly moldable state makes matters so much easier. Children’s orthotics can effectively re-form soft bones and help them maintain their ideal shape, which in turn helps prevent chronic pain from deformities that are noticed as an adult.

The key is in identifying problems (and potential problems) early enough. Growth ends at around age 12 for girls and age 13 for boys. There are time limits with this window of opportunity and it closes as the foot approaches skeletal maturity.

But how do you know what problems to look for? If only we had some sort of crystal ball…

X-ray child vs adult foot

Grandparents May Be the Key to the Future

Foot problems that can develop in infancy sometimes have external factors (such as the position of the feet within the womb), but simple genetics will be the main factor in the majority of cases.

And if you want a snapshot of how genetics can play out for your child, you only have to go as far as your family tree.

In fact, one of the best appointments we can make for a child’s foot care is one that includes the parents and grandparents. This gives us a closer look at a possible family history of foot problems, as it’s a trickier situation just to focus only on the child.

Many parents are told that their children will “outgrow” potential foot and ankle problems, but they really just outgrow the physician who won’t be around when problems show themselves 40 years down the road. Having as much information in the beginning helps greatly, and you can’t ask for a much wider scope than three generations to review.

While you can start to identify some problems in parents, grandparents have gone on the full roller coaster ride. Parents can show what problems look like as they’re just starting out, but it can take 40-60 years for the real problems to show up. Grandparents show what the end result can be.

So, if you are scheduling an appointment with us for your child who is 3 years of age or under, we absolutely recommend bringing the family along. We are certainly not against it for children between the ages of 3 and 12, either.

baby shoes

But What About Baby Shoes?

Since baby feet are growing, developing, and generally squishy, they don’t really need shoes. However, the “cute rule” is in effect.

What do we mean? For babies 6 months and younger, putting them in shoes should be fine. They aren’t walking in them at that time, after all; it’s mostly foot covering. So matching boat shoes or Timberlines with the parents is too cute and OK.

However, please be sure that whatever shoes you use are not tight, constricting, or otherwise uncomfortable against baby’s feet. Knitted shoes are a great choice, as they’re soft, comfortable, and perfectly suited for events both casual and formal.

“Real” shoes are important when children are learning to walk, but walking is not something you should be in too much of a hurry to make happen.

We understand there can be societal pressure toward seeing your child make milestones, but starting to walk within 12-14 months is perfectly fine and normal. If you are trying to get your child to walk at 9 months, that is too early.

Another tidbit about shoes: don’t feel like you must get “high top” shoes to improve your child’s ankle stability. The high tops are there more to make it harder for kids to kick the shoes off in the middle of downtown, leaving an unsolved mystery of a missing shoe when you get home.

Dr. Leibovitz talked more about infant feet and shoes in a recent Facebook Live broadcast. Click here to check it out!

Indianapolis Foot Care for All Ages

You should not have to worry about every little thing when you have a child—although we know that’s a hard thing to ask!

Taking your child to see us is not something to worry about, though; it’s something to help assuage worry. Addressing potential problems with your child’s feet and ankles (if there are any) at their most malleable stage is the best possible outcome, and a great way to help ensure they will be strong and mobile when they reach adulthood.

Give us a call at (317) 545-0505 to schedule an appointment with our Indianapolis office. Or, if you prefer to contact us electronically, please feel free to fill out our online contact form.