Key Developmental Stage for Kids' Feet
January 26, 2015
Our feet are pretty amazing (and complicated)- with 28 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, 100+ ligaments and over 200,000 nerve endings, there certainly is a lot going on!!
Let's look at the basics.
The ankle serves as your foundation, shock absorber and propulsion powerhouse. It allows the foot to serve its purpose- to provide support, balance and mobility to the body, whether it’s walking, running, skipping, jumping, hopping.
Because of the overall importance of feet with regards to movement, once a problem develops in feet, further issues can ascend through the kinetic chain and affect other areas of the body, such as knees, hips, and back. So it is especially important to take care of your feet!
What's different with a child's foot compared to an adult?
When a child is young their foot is triangular in shape, with the toes being the widest part of the foot. At birth, feet are mostly made of cartilage- which overtime is replaced by bone.
This process is not normally complete until the later teenage years; 18-19 for girls, 20-21 for boys. Because this process takes up until the late teenage years to complete, earlier in life feet are more susceptible to deformities caused by badly shaped or rigid shoes.
Problems may have a lasting impact, and cause muscle or bone underdevelopment or deformities which can throw the foot out of balance. The height of your arch and the shape of the toes will change throughout your lifetime. Irreversible damage can occur when wearing the wrong shoes during childhood, due to the malleable nature of cartilage.
The function of the toes, especially the big toe, is to help us balance, and to propel us forward during movement, whether we are walking, running or jumping.
What are some of the key stages of foot development?
In their first year, a baby’s foot grows around three whole sizes (around 25mm); between the ages of one and five years, it grows about two whole sizes (18mm) each year. And from the age of five, right up until their mid-teens, feet continue to grow at around one size (8mm) each year.
Once a baby has learnt to sit up on their own, the first stage in their walking development is crawling. Some babies begin by balancing on their hands and knees before pushing themselves along with their legs. Others prefer to shuffle on their bottoms, before sitting upright, bending their knees and taking off.
The second stage, called cruising, is when baby might use the furniture, a toy or your knee to pull themselves up. When they feel steady, they will slide one hand to their side whilst moving one foot and then the other, always keeping three points of contact to help them stay upright. Once they begin to grow in confidence, they will let go and totter towards the next support.
Most children learn to walk aged between 10 and 18 months. It all depends on the development of the muscular strength and co-ordination needed. Don’t worry if it takes your child a little longer! All children are different and they need to develop at their own pace – do not rush this important development stage.
Does a child move differently to an adult?
When they do take their first unaided steps, they will walk very differently from an adult. Their feet will be wide apart and point outwards. There will be no flexing of the knees or ankle and they will take short stamping steps, making them quite unsteady. Beginner walkers will also hold their arms out to keep balanced.
Babies appear to have flat feet because of the thick layer of baby fat present in every infant’s arch, which is normal and necessary. From this fat, baby’s muscles and bones absorb nourishment as they grow. It starts disappearing around 3-4 years old but until then every baby normally has low arches. Children’s feet change and arch strength develops over the first ten years of life, however a rapid period of growth usually occurs between ages 3-5, where you can begin to see changes.
Additionally when a baby first starts to walk, they normally stand with their feet pointed out in a fallen arched manner in order to balance. For a toddler this is normal. After a few months children acquire strength and will abandon the fallen arched gait and stance- without any intervention.
How about running?
Children are also born to run naturally – with correct forward foot strike, fast cadence, perfect rhythm and posture. At around the age of two, children walk with a flat-footed stomp. Their hip joints will have rotated, so their feet and knees will now point forward. At four years old they may still seem a little flat-footed, but they will be developing a heel-to-toe walking style. Their knees and ankles will flex naturally, making their movement smoother than before, though they may find changing speed or direction difficult. Around this age, children are also coming to grips with running and jumping. Throughout this period, they need shoes which are flexible enough to let their movement develop naturally.
The alignment of children’s limbs seems to be forever changing! When they pop into the world, they have been crammed inside a space smaller than a basketball. Obviously they are weak and nowhere near capable of supporting themselves in standing against gravity. Soon though, they begin to improve their strength and smooth their movements. What starts out as uncontrolled, erratic flopping of a hand turns into a wave. Sitting and crawling improves core strength (spend each day on all fours and you’ll be amazed at how strong your core becomes). Eventually, your little one stands and before you know it they have taken their first steps and are playing football.
At Sole Mechanics we have in house running coaches to help you relearn how to run and run more efficiently with less chance of injury.
Contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and to book a session.
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