When babies are born the bones in their feet have not completely formed and are more like cartilage. This cartilage slowly ossifies (turns to bone) even up to the ages of 11-12 this process is still going on.
After about 8 months to a year the feet are strong enough to attempt weight-bearing and walking. The bones are not fully formed yet so it is always best to be vigilant to ensure your child is walking comfortably. As your child grows, keep an eye out for anything that looks unusual, if you see something worrying or you think your child is walking in pain or discomfort then come and see us at Perfect Balance Clinic for a full walking assessment. Abnormalities spotted early could reduce the risk of more serious foot issues later on in life.
Here are some top tips to help:
1. The more kicking your baby can do; the stronger their feet and legs will grow. So do not restrain your baby’s legs or feet, instead create opportunities for your baby to move, stretch and strengthen leg muscles so as to promote healthy leg development.
2. Your child will walk when they are good and ready – so don’t force it! Children have their own timetable which depends on muscle strength, bone development and coordination. They have to work out the logistics of turning over, sitting up, crawling, climbing and standing before they can even attempt walking, so be patient.
3. When they finally do start to walk; let them do this in bare feet or in socks. This will help them develop stability and proprioception, as well as encouraging natural foot and lower leg development. If they are running about outside then footwear is simply a barrier protecting their feet from the ground. They do not need to be supportive shoes as the foot is still forming; instead they should have a decent rubber sole to protect the feet from sharp objects and stones.
4. It is recommended that children should have their feet checked by a podiatrist on a yearly basis while still developing. This is not only to assess their feet and walking ability but also to provide specialist advice on expected milestones and appropriate footwear.
5. If your child seems happy on their feet, and is happy to run about with no issues then the chances are there is no problem to be concerned about.
If your baby hasn’t started walking by 18 months or your baby only walks on their toes then it is worth having this investigated further by a qualified podiatrist. If you notice any asymmetries in the movements of one side of the body compared to the other, or one dominant or favoured leg then that too should prompt a visit to a Podiatrist.