The foot is a complex structure comprised of 26 bones. These bones are designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock with each step. A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone. Although the structure of the foot develops fully by 2 years of age, the bones themselves do not fully develop and harden until around 18 years of age
In young children the arch will usually not be visible or developed for the first 2 years and even then it is not fully developed. In the early years of childhood, there is a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot, but this is not the case as it offers a natural arch support.
Children learn to walk by gripping their toes on the ground, as they build intrinsic strength of their foot and arch. So at home, it is advised to leave your toddler child barefoot to promote natural foot development. However, when surfaces are uneven, shoes should be worn to protect their feet. As your child ages the importance of shoes begins to increase. As the structure of the foot transitions from flexible to more rigid, it is important to transition into a shoe that gives proper support and stability to the foot. Outlined below are the shoe recommendations by age:
Pre-Walking Shoe: Certain types of shoes are appropriate for your child’s age. Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They need booties or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than providing a rigid support, and it’s very important that the shoe be shaped like the child’s foot. The function of a shoe at this age is warmth and protection.
Toddler Shoes: Choose a lightweight shoe as children at this age, tend to use a lot of energy walking. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit little feet better. These shoes should provide stability to help prevent tripping and stumbling. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.
School-Age Children’s Shoes: Style and shoe fit is important for school-age children. Their main function is shock absorption and protection. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc. It is very important to wear the right shoes for the right activity to prevent injury. Look for reasonably priced, structured, well-ventilated shoes that have proper arch support for the foot.