Podopaediatrics and what you can do to preserve your child’s feet

The practice of podiatry has evolved substantially in recent years, and now encompasses a number of different, distinct areas to provide specialist care tailored to those who need. The practice of podopaediatrics, a specialty focussing on foot care for young children, is a particularly important field as it can potentially alleviate painful conditions and deformities that would otherwise cause lifelong pain and/or mobility issues.

In this article we look at some general tips offered by podopaediatricians to parents and children to preserve the long term health of their feet and ankles.

Tips for the podiatric care of children’s feet

Getting shoes and socks of the right size, both in terms of length and of width, is extremely important from a podiatric perspective. Shoes that don’t quite fit can, over time, exert a constant pressure that deforms the foot. This isn’t noticeable until the foot has been damaged to a certain extent, and ultimately getting your child’s shoe fitted properly is a shortcut to healthier feet.

Abnormalities in the shape, and hence function, of the foot often present themselves through unusual wear in children’s shoes. These stem from an abnormal distribution of weight on the shoe, causing certain sections to endure more contact with the ground and hence wear down more quickly. If you observe any unusual wear in your child’s shoes you should seek podiatric advice to offset the complications that abnormalities in the shape of the foot can cause in the long run.

Foot infections are always unpleasant, but fortunately they can often be avoided through a couple of simple measures. If possible you should have your child alternate their shoes every other day, giving each pair of shoes a chance to dry out properly. Accumulated moisture from sweating (the shoe is after all a tight and enclosed space) provides a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and fungi.

Different shoes offer different levels of support, and you should make sure that your child doesn’t spend too long in shoes with thin and flat bottoms like plimsolls. These types of shoes can have adverse effects on the structure and function of a foot in the long run. Trainers on the other hand are well known for providing consistent support that is easy on both the foot and the ankles.

It is not unusual for children to develop new sores after adopting new shoes. Blisters and sores can be unpleasant, and are one of the purviews of podiatric care. In most cases blisters resolve themselves quickly, however if they pose a consistent problem to your child you should speak to a podiatrist whenever possible.

Children can often be quite abusive of their feet, a habit which can prove detrimental in the long run if their feet aren’t regularly checked for tell-tale signs that care is needed. For example, any inflammation of the nails or distinctive red marks or spots on top of the small joints making up a toe or around the ankles or heels are indicative of a foot suffering at the hands of poor shoes and/or excessive use and abuse. If you see any of these signs speaking to your podiatrist is the best way to ensure the long term health of your children’s feet.

Similarly complaints about painful rashes or hard bits of skin are often a sign of repeated damage to part of the foot. In these cases seeking quick and efficient care is the best way forward.

You should encourage your children to regularly wash their feet to ensure general health and freedom for inspection. The smell of your child’s feet can also be an invaluable tool for parents as particularly pungent odours can be a sign of infection. Similarly toenails should be kept trim and clean to prevent in- or out-growing nails that can be painful.

These are some general suggestions offered by podiatrists for the overall maintenance and safety of the feet of young children.

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