Many of us shrug off the real importance of our feet, believing they are merely appendages needing adornment in order to look presentable and even attractive.
But there is so much more to the human foot than that and by learning just the basics you’ll be able to give your baby a kicking start to a healthy pair of feet!
Standing its own in a category of man’s most intricate body parts, each human foot comprises a total of 26 bones that work closely with a group of muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Because the feet of young children are so delicately soft and pliable, abnormal pressure from unsuitable shoes can easily cause an untold number of deformities.
A lot of steps to take…
Our feet start working from the day we are born – wriggling and stretching the toes and the entire foot. This is the start to, hopefully, a healthy pair of feet which will carry one through a lifetime of steps. They are preparing for the 185 000kms they will walk in the average person’s lifetime – that’s the equivalent of walking around the world five times! And with each step, as the heel hits the ground, it will do so at about twice the individual’s physical weight. Tough, aren’t they? That’s why it’s so important to start your child off on the right step.
The very first thing you can do to strengthen your baby’s feet is with gentle massage. This will stimulate and strengthen the muscles and the blood flow and in so doing, aid natural development.
The -old school’ generation will tell you to choose firm – even rigid – shoes for your baby when he starts walking. This is simply not the case.
No flexibility leads to deformities
Children’s feet can easily be deformed by shoes with no flexibility, shoes that force their little feet into a pre-designed shape and force them to walk around in such a restricted manner. Arches, raises, or soles with no give or flexibility, and restricting upper fabrics over the top of the foot which do not allow baby’s foot to breathe is simply like a death sentence to a young foot. In fact, paediatricians around the world agree that it is also vital for babies and young children up to the age of about five to have as much shoe-free time as possible, as it provides good strengthening and development of the feet, ankles and leg muscles. This will also teach him good toe-gripping techniques.
Here’s how you can help baby to his healthy feet:
- Ensure you select a shoe that fits properly. This is vital not only for the long term health of baby’s feet, but also to prevent painful blisters
- Soft and flexible shoes will give your baby his own control as he starts to walk and this is important as walking is a natural part of his development where instinct will most certainly kick in
- Be sure to provide him with a happy medium of -shoes on’ and -shoes off’ time
- Stiff, hard, shoe uppers over the top of the foot and the soles are an absolute no-no
- Flat, bendable and non-slip soles with breathable and comfortable tops are the best bet
- Probably the most comfortable and convenient strap closures are those which fasten with Velcro. They are also the quickest and easiest to fasten and undo.
If the sock fits
And lastly, don’t disregard the innocent-looking sock! Socks that are too small, too tight and perhaps not even necessary can hide their own demons. Your baby needs space to move his feet and jiggle his toes – remember it’s part of developing his feet. Restrictive socks, ill-fitting baby grows and blankets tightly wrapped around his little body can cause untold damage. Besides, fresh air on his little body and his feet is an exciting experience for him as you will see by the way he wriggles around and kicks his legs to and fro. Don’t take such a natural and healthy joy from him!