Don’t Rush Early Walking for Your Baby - Jeffrie C. Leibovitz, DPM

Don’t Rush Early Walking for Your Baby

Watching your child reach milestones is a big deal, and we understand that. It is typical if you’re a little impatient for them walk, talk, and feed themselves. The irony is that once they achieve these monumental events you will be telling them to sit down, shut up and don’t eat so fast.

There should be concern if developmental landmarks that are not on schedule. These include vision and sound tracking, raising the head and rolling over, and making sounds are a few.

One of those first big milestones is a baby taking their first steps. You want to be there when it happens. Getting the video of the baby doing their best drunken sailor imitation provides hours of entertainment. Parents may encourage their infants on so the blessed event comes sooner.

But development isn’t a race! It’s OK if your child starts walking a bit later than you expected them to. It is alright if little Sophia and Liam from Gymboree have already started waking. In fact, trying to speed up the process can cause problems in your baby’s feet. I may be treating Sophia and Liam in my office in 10-12 years

Early Bone Development is a Lot Like Play Dough

Children’s feet grow and develop quickly. In order for this to happen, the bones are very soft and can be molded like a kid’s favorite toy and dessert -Play Dough. The beginning skeleton of a child looks very different from the adult’s end product.

Most of the bones in the feet of infants and very young children are practically invisible. An X-ray of a young foot will show vaguely defined spaces. This is not the crowded structures you find in a mature foot that has 26 bones.

The bones are still there, but they have not yet become ossified (i.e. hard). They are cartilage at this point, which makes them soft and capable of changing shape. Back to Play Dough- create a figure you like. If there is an outside force that adds pressure the shape will change. If that sculpture is the foot then bad things can happen. And some good things can happen too. Significant deformities, such as club foot, can be corrected with simple casting and molding techniques

Since we have talked about Play dough so much, here is a recipe

The good news is that your little one doesn’t really need to be using their feet for much. Their feet have other jobs such as being just so cute, a great pacifier, and part of the best piggy poem ever.

But if you start introducing forces too early…

x ray combined

Gravity Can Mold Your Child’s Feet

Gravity is a major influence on the shape of the feet when bones are soft and more pliable.

Early weight bearing on under developed is a powerful force. Gravity will dictate where pressure builds upon the foot structure. It is very common for a neo walker to toe out with a wide stance for better stability and balance. This position will improve as motor control and balance develop. The problem is that his stance allows baby’s feet to roll inward. The more forced that is placed on the feet in this position, the more likely there will be long term changes. An adult that out toes and pronates will most likely have a laundry list of problems that cam go all the way up to the hip.

You can think of foot structure like those curious structures called cairns. These are those artful columns of rocks you might find in parks and remote areas. I would like to think they are stacked by talented people but I will not rule out wizards or aliens –just saying. There is an optimal way a cairn must be built to stand the test of time and not topple over. Cairns stand a better chance on a flat surface that is vertical and true. But if you try building on the side of a hill (or feet roll inward), the structure will not have a stable foundation. Gravity will cause problems- it will make the foot and the Cairn collapse.

The foot 2 bones that are most effected by gravity are the heel bone (calcaneus) and the talus. They are stacked on top of each other like a Cairn. Besides gravity, time is a major part of the flat foot formula. The earlier such problems are discovered, the better the chance we’ll have of putting things back into proper shape.

Treating Abnormalities in Your Child’s Foot Structure

If a structural problems is identified in your child’s feet early the softness and pliability in the bones can actually work in our favor. We are looking for flat feet, out-toeing, in-toeing clubfoot.

The sooner we can begin to influence a child’s foot, the more accepting the structures will be to that change. This typically includes the use of custom orthotics, specific shoes, or flexibility exercises. For some more severe conditions such as clubfoot, a series of casts may be recommended instead.

The end goal of all these treatments is the same. We want the foot and ankle in a good position so the structure develop in that position. This will produce a stable and functioning adult foot. The endpoint of influencing bone growth is 12-13 years for boys and 11-12 for girls.

cairn stone structure

Take a Look Into the Future

Keep in mind that not all structural abnormalities are the results of early walking. Some problems are genetic in nature. Your children may not fall far from the family tree.

These issues can be addressed via the methods mentioned above. Early detection remains key. One place to look is at your own foot and ankle history – as well as those of your parents and others in your family.

You may well know the effects of structural abnormalities after decades of activity. But if we can find those problems now, we can lessen the impact on the little ones’ lives through their adulthood.

As a bonus, the happier your children’s feet are now, the more active they are prone to be. This can also help prevent health problems from developing later on.

So When Should a Child Start Walking, Anyway?

The simple answer is: when they want to.

You do not have to fear that your child will be “left behind” other kids. Some start walking a little later than others, and that’s perfectly fine. Trying to force the issue does not help at all.


One thing to especially avoid is the use of baby walkers and jumpers. They hold child upright, either rolling around or bouncing in place. Every push your child makes in one of these can causing or exacerbating structural problems. The rolling variety can also be deadly near stairs. They are such a threat that they have been outlawed in Canada. Here is a link to the NBC story about the dangers.

Expert Care for the Smallest Feet

Never hesitate to contact our Indianapolis office with any concerns or questions you might have about your child’s foot health. Even if there doesn’t turn out to be a problem, getting some parental peace of mind is well worth it.

Call us at (317) 545-0505 or fill out our online contact form to request an appointment.