Kids go through a LOT of changes. They’re always growing stronger, wiser, braver, more adventurous – and their bodies are always changing too. When it comes to the feet and legs, knowing what is and isn’t expected during their development is a challenge for many parents. Because getting it wrong and missing warning signs can have painful consequences, we thought we’d answer the is it or isn’t it expected question for FIVE things you may notice with your children’s feet and legs as they grow.
Yes, you may look at your child’s feet and notice they’re pointing in towards one another. This is called in-toeing – and is commonly referred to as pigeon-toeing. It’s common at a young age when kids are finding their feet and learning to walk. They may even go from in-toeing to out-toeing before the feet straighten up again.
But if the in-toeing persists after age 7, it should be checked so that it doesn’t become permanent. You should also look out for whether the in-toeing is causing regular tripping, falling, bumps and bruises. If it is, we can treat in-toeing early by using a special ‘gait-plate’ orthotic, which sits unnoticeably inside a shoe and encourages the foot to straighten with every step.
While having a healthy arch is expected, not having an arch when you’re standing is definitely not uncommon. Many adults and kids alike will have flat feet for the duration of their lifetime. For some, it can go on to cause aches and problems because having flat feet can overuse and strain certain muscles used in controlling the movement of the feet and legs. This is why many people use orthotics to support the arch and help reduce the strain on the tissues and muscles, and why orthotics are a fantastic treatment for foot and leg pain. If your kids have flat feet over the age of 6, it’s a good idea to get them checked – especially if they’re very active.
While growing pains do occur for many kids, they are not ‘normal’ or something that should just be accepted. Pain and aches are our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t right. Specifically, in growing pains, the bone is growing faster than the muscle that is attached to it, which creates a tight pull on the muscle at its attachment to the bone, which creates the pain. By working to lengthen the muscle, the painful pull will be alleviated and your kids will be able to run and play without pain. It really is simple anatomy.
If your kids seem to be able to stretch and bend like a rubber band, don’t worry. It is common and for most, their flexibility will decrease as they age. The danger here is that the movements it allows them to create can have consequences. A good example of this is ‘W’ sitting, where kids sit with their legs out to the sides and behind them. While their flexibility allows them to easily and naturally sit like this, this position actually encourages the internal rotation of the hip bone (femur), which can cause in-toeing. The stable position that W sitting creates also means that kids don’t have to engage their core muscles when moving their body and reaching in this position, meaning that they can delay the regular development and strengthening of essential muscles if they sit like this often
We’ve seen kids as young as 6 months have ingrown toenails. Sometimes, it just happens. But if your child has had an ingrown toenail more than once, it’s often an indicator that there’s something else going on. Even that one time may be self-inflicted too. Whether you’re fully grown or just starting out, the most common causes of ingrown toenails are tight or narrow footwear and a poor nail cutting technique. Of course, genetics can also play a role, but you’d know this fairly early on.
We treat a LOT of kids who pick at or pull their toenails, instead of cutting them straight across. When they do, they often leave a sharp nail edge down the side of the nail that can’t be seen. Over time, as the nail grows, the sharp edge will also move forward with the nail and can pierce the skin. If the shoes are tight, it can push the skin against the nail and encourage this even further. The same applies for rounding the nail edges when they’re trimmed.
Permanent solutions for ingrown toenails are available, and include both invisible nail braces to change the curved shape of the nail and minor surgical procedures to permanently remove the offending nail edge.
The best advice we can offer if you see something potentially abnormal with your child’s feet or legs is to bring them in to be checked! Treating problems early can save a lot of pain, hassle, time and money further down the track and gives parents a peace of mind that their kids are healthy and happy.
If you’d like us to check your kids’ feet, we’d love to help! You can give us a call on 1300-FX-FEET to book in a time before they start back at school, or book your appointment online here.