What to Look for in a Child’s Walk
Parents naturally want two things for their children – health and happiness. The fact of the matter is that the two can be more related than people usually consider. (There’s a reason the word “miserable” is so often associated with illnesses, after all.)
It’s easy enough to think about health in the context of “not being sick,” but a matter like foot health can play a big role in a child’s happiness. Sure, foot pain is unpleasant in and of itself, but this is only the start of the story.
The conditions that cause foot pain keep children away from their favorite activities. This can even be a potential warning sign of an existing problem.
As we’re going to discuss, it’s important to know what to look for in a child’s walk, but a child withdrawing from sports and other enjoyable activities can be an indication of an existing problem.
With regards to things you should look for in your child’s actual walk – intoeing (or out-toeing) and flat feet are biomechanical and structural features to note.
Between intoeing and out-toeing, intoeing (often called “pigeon-toed”) tends to be the more commonly seen condition. As the name indicates, intoeing is marked by feet that point inward. It only stands to reason, then, that out-toeing is a condition wherein the toes point outward.
There are many cases of both conditions caused by abnormal twisting of leg bones (either in the upper or lower leg). In some instances, the problem is an abnormally curved foot – which may develop when a child is still in the womb. The good news regarding intoeing and out-toeing is that most cases will resolve themselves over time. For peace of mind, you can always check with our office to see if there is any cause for concern.
What to Know About Arches
With regard to foot arches, it’s perfectly normal to expect to see them in your child’s feet. When parents aren’t able to do so, they can become quite worried. The good news is that this probably isn’t the problem you think it to be.
To start with, pediatric foot arches are often covered with padding until a child is around three years old, so do not expect them to be noticeable as your son or daughter advances from first steps to cruising around home at reckless speeds (seemingly overnight). After this point, the arches are still not fully developed until about 8 years of age. During that time, many children have a condition known as flexible flatfoot, which is not usually painful.
With flexible flatfoot, the arch isn’t present when your son or daughter is standing or walking normally. When he or she is on tiptoe, though, you can see it. Children often outgrow this in time. Even if they don’t, as long as it is not causing pain, there is not likely a need for treatment. Essentially, pediatric flatfoot isn’t a problem unless it causes pain or other symptoms.
In general, it’s always best stay aware of your child’s gait pattern. This means noticing how your child walks, and especially if he or she is limping. If this is something you observe, you can bring your son or daughter in for a professional gait analysis. We can assess the situation, and then determine whether or not treatment is needed.
Many children’s foot issues—like intoeing and flatfoot—resolve themselves in time. This isn’t always the case, however. When your child needs professional foot or ankle care, Wisconsin Foot Center is here to help. We will provide gentle, effective treatment to resolve whatever problem is affecting your son or daughter.
For more information on child foot care, or to request an appointment at our Hales Corners office, simply call (414) 425-8400 or fill out our online form.
"Feel Good Feet: A User's Guide to Foot & Ankle Health"