A child’s foot is not a miniature version of an adult’s foot. In early development, a child’s foot is widest across the toes. Poorly shaped shoes are potentially harmful; restricting natural movement and development of the foot. In addition, wearing shoes of insufficient length during childhood can lead to deformities of the foot, particularly Hallux Valgus (bunions) related disorders. As children’s feet, on average, grow 2-3 sizes per year, shoes should be soft leather, with 12-17mm of room in front of the toes.
Nearly all babies are born with what looks like flat feet, because the foot surface is covered by a thick pad of fat. It’s only from walking that the ligaments and muscles strengthen and pull upwards to form the arch. The arch is usually fully developed at 6-8 years of age. The foot acts as a cantilever to support the foot from the front and the back; therefore it is not necessary to support this using shoes.
The joints and ligaments of the legs and feet are extremely flexible in babies. It’s common for toddlers to be slightly pigeon-toed, as a result of being cramped in the foetal position. A duck-like stance, with the toes facing outwards, is also not uncommon when infants start walking. Many babies will start with a toe-first walk, eventually mastering the heel-strike by about 18 months. Knock knees or bow legs in babies are also common. If allowed to grow naturally, most of these foot-related ‘abnormalities’ will correct themselves.