It has been our experience that proper care and treatment of the feet, beginning in childhood, will prevent many of the orthopedic foot and ankle problems seen in adults. Preventive medicine in the field of podiatric medicine is just as important to your child as it is in dentistry or general medicine. Many children walk excessively pigeon toed, flat footed, or bowlegged. Although they are not in pain, they are damaging their feet.
Intoeing Most babies begin life with their toes point slightly out. However, if the unborn baby lies with its feet pressed against the womb the wrong way, it can be born with its feet turned inward. The condition can make learning to walk difficult. Tripping may be the first sign of toeing in.
Exercises Intoeing can often be corrected through stretching exercises. The podiatrist or physical therapist can teach parents some simple exercises that can help straighten out a baby's feet. The exercises take minutes a day, and they are performed until the problem is corrected.
Casts In some instances, plaster casts or custom braces can be used to coax a baby's feet back into normal position. Just as braces gradually reposition teeth, casts gradually reposition feet. The casts or braces are changed periodically until the podiatrist determines that the feet are properly aligned.
Flat Feet Many babies naturally appear flatfooted. Usually, this will disappear as the baby begins to stand and walk. Some children do not grow out of this deformity and have trouble as they grow. Children with flat feet, or low arches, may not be able to keep up with other children because of the added strain on feet and legs.
Orthotics Orthotic devices can be used to maintain proper foot support. They are made of plastic and must be refitted as the child grows older. Usually they are good for two shoe sizes or 50 lbs of growth. In younger children, these often need to be refabricated every year. Orthotics help to realign the foot and distribute body weight evenly. They can slow down the progression of many inherited foot deformities and help children's feet grow more properly. They also decrease the associated biomechanically induced problems seen at the knees, hips and lower back.When to bring your child to see the doctor. If you suspect any foot problems, have a podiatrist who has experience in childhood foot problems examine your child. You may spare your child further problems later in life!