When you have kids, any change in the way they walk or move can be scary. You wonder what they’ll outgrow and what will require a doctor’s intervention.
This is especially true of kids’ feet—they grow and change so quickly as babies move from crawling to walking and running, and as toddlers graduate from soft-soled shoes to the athletic apparel and cleats of older childhood.
In order to help you rest easier, I’m going to discuss two common childhood foot and gait issues that, while initially normal, do require your podiatrist’s attention if they linger. Let’s take a closer look.
Is it Ok if My Child’s Toes Point Inwards with Walking?
If your child’s feet or knees point inward instead of straight ahead when they walk or run, they may be intoeing, a condition caused by differences in the rotation of the thigh or lower leg bones.
While not usually painful for your child, intoeing is an awkward way to move. You may also notice that your child W-sits on the floor, with his or her knees facing inward and feet spread out to the sides.
Intoeing is a condition most kids outgrow on their own. If the bone discrepancy comes from the lower leg, you should expect your child’s gait to normalize by the time he or she turns 5. If the problem originates from the thighs or hips, 10 is the age when symptoms will usually disappear.
But what if your child is 11 and still intoeing? Now is the time to seek intervention, especially if your child is experiencing any pain. Consult with your doctor earlier, however, if your child is missing milestones, in pain, or unable to participate in school or athletic activities.
Why Does my Child’s Foot Have no Arch?
If your child’s foot does not appear to have an arch when standing, he or she may have a common condition known as flat feet. In this condition, your child’s arch flattens out when he or she stands up, typically because of flexible joints in the feet. When there is no pressure on the feet, or when your child goes on tip toes, his or her arches should reappear (if they don’t, the condition may be inflexible, and a cause for concern.)
Before your child turns 2, flat feet are completely normal. In fact, with normal development, your child’s arch may not fully develop until even later. So, if your child has no symptoms other than a flat foot, you don’t need to worry about treatment until the tween years.
Unfortunately, however, many children with flat feet experience pain or discomfort especially when engaging in physical activity or even just after a long walk. Thankfully, there are relatively easy interventions I can provide to help relieve this pain: with supportive shoes, orthotics and, in some case, physical therapy, we can get rid of the discomfort even before a proper arch emerges.
If pain persists, or the flat feet are stiff and rigid, surgery may be necessary to help correct the problem. But don’t panic: this is not the case for the majority of children with flat feet.
Now that you know what’s ‘normal’ and not when it comes to the look and movement of your child’s feet, I want to leave you with one final message. I’m a podiatrist, but I’m also a father. I know how scary it can feel when you don’t know what’s going on with your son or daughter. So, if ever you have a concern about your child’s foot, you are welcome in my office. I’d always rather tell you everything is fine than have you delay treatment while your son or daughter gets more and more uncomfortable.