Written By: Paul Langer, DPM — Superfeet Wellness Expert. Paul Langer is a sports medicine podiatrist who treats athletes of all abilities at Twin Cities Orthopedics in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of Great Feet For Life and lectures internationally on the topics of lower extremity health and footwear.
Families are always on the run these days and healthy feet are an important part of busy, active lifestyles. Our feet are easy to take for granted but we have to appreciate that they carry us thousands of steps every day and help us through not only our school and work activities but also our fun, sports and fitness activities. Feet also change over our lifetime.
How to Keep Your Children’s Feet Healthy
The most important things to do to protect healthy feet is to maintain good foot hygiene and to wear shoes that fit well and are suitable for the activity.
Clean, dry skin that is properly hydrated is less likely to blister or develop athlete’s foot. Nails that are trimmed and smooth are less likely to cause pain.
Properly fitting and comfortable shoes have many health benefits. Conversely, poorly fitting shoes can be linked to foot pain and injury.
How To Tell If Your Kids Shoes Fit Correctly
Check shoe fit the same way you would do for an adult — check toe length and width by pressing on the upper of the shoe.
Most importantly, I always make sure children try on at least three different styles shoes and then pick the one that feels most comfortable. It does not matter why a child finds a shoe comfortable or not, it just matters that they pick what feels best to them. Parents should not try to tell their kids which specific shoes to wear (except to make sure it is suitable for the activity it will be used for). A child may have different preferences for comfort features so parents should respect those differences and allow the child to select after making comparisons.
Do Your Kids Need Orthotics?
I often have parents bring their children into my clinic expressing concern for how their child’s feet look. Most often they are concerned that the child has “flat feet” or the child walks or runs “wrong”.
My first question to the child is whether they are experiencing pain. Typically, the child has no pain. In general, I tell parents that unless their child has pain and/or extremely flat feet or extremely high arches that are painful, they do not need to worry about prescription orthotics. There is a wide range of anatomical, biomechanical and gait variability that is normal and we do not have to try to “correct” everything that does not appear “normal.”
Parents are often worried that even though their child does not have pain currently that they will develop problems if we don’t address their condition immediately. I always reassure them that if a flat foot becomes painful we can start treating it. But, there is no scientific research that tells clinicians to treat a painless flat foot in a child order to prevent future injuries or pain.
In addition, there is a mistaken belief that if we start supporting the arch with a prescription orthotic that the child will then develop an arch. That simply does not happen.
I don’t want to over generalize so if you have a concern do not hesitate to see a specialist but if your child is not experiencing foot pain then I do not recommend prescription orthotics.