Every parent wants to do everything they can to make sure their child grows up happy and healthy. However, the development of their feet often goes overlooked, as it’s easy to forget just how big of a role they play in their development.
To help you understand everything you need to know about children’s foot development in the first few years of their life, we’ve put together this guide. Read on to get clued up on the essential stages of a child’s development so you can spot any issues quickly and address them straight away.
The first few months
For the first few months of your baby’s life, they have no fully-formed bones in their feet. Instead, the shape of their feet is formed by soft bones that eventually harden as they grow — a process that won’t be complete until they’re about 18. At this early stage, these bones are protected by the ‘puppy fat’ that makes your little one’s feet so adorable.
At this point in your child’s development, the soles of their feet will be flat, as their arches are yet to form. Their feet will also bend out of shape quite easily without causing them any pain, which is why it’s so important to get them soft, flexible shoes that give them room to grow. Entire Podiatry recommends that you allow them to go barefoot as much as possible so they can learn to use their feet through feeling — massaging their feet will also help with this.
6–9 months: The early stages of learning to walk
Every child learns to walk at a different pace, but you’ll usually find your little one starting to try and stand up between six and nine months into their life. During this stage, they’ll lose some of that ‘puppy fat’ and the shape of their fully-grown feet will start to form.
However, their feet are still a long way from being fully formed, and it’s important you allow your little one to explore their range of motion in bare feet as much as possible so their bones and muscles strengthen to accommodate their bodyweight. It’s recommended that you encourage your baby to stand as much as possible during this time — try holding their favourite toys just out of their reach and encouraging them to stand to grab it, praising them whenever they achieve it.
9–18 months: Walking
Between nine and 18 months into your baby’s development, they’re likely to be taking their first steps. This is a crucial time in your little one’s progression, and there will be 25 bones forming in both of their feet during this period. If you don’t get your child the right footwear, these bones won’t be able to form properly, so be sure to follow the advice in the Charles Clinkard guide to choosing your child’s first pair of shoes: pick a lightweight pair that are made of soft and flexible uppers, and make sure they give your child’s feet room to grow but aren’t too loose.
When your child starts taking their very first steps, it’s important to keep a close eye on their development. While it’s normal for them to walk slightly bow-legged or with their feet turned in or out, these problems should quickly correct themselves. Take a look at the NHS’s guide to leg and foot problems in children for the warning signs you should look out for when your little one is taking their first steps.
So, there you have it: our guide to the first few years of your child’s foot development. Keep this information in mind and it’s sure to help you raise a happy and healthy child.