Leading podiatrists warn that many Australian children could be starting off the school year on the wrong foot by wearing shoes that permanently damage their feet.
Children spend at least 1200 hours in school shoes each year – and that doesn’t factor in extra-curricular activities such as sports.
Yet research by Australia’s largest podiatry group My FootDr reveals a staggering 61 per cent of children haven’t had their feet properly measured or fitted within the last 12 months.
My FootDr and Balance Podiatry Chief Executive Officer Darren Stewart said children who wore inappropriate shoes faced problems ranging from pain and deformities to balance and posture.
“Ill-fitting footwear can lead to the development of common conditions including bunions, curled under toes and corns and calluses,” Mr Stewart says.
“Wearing shoes that offer little to no support on hard, unforgiving surfaces all day can also lead to arch, ankle, knee and back pain.”
He said parents had a distinct lack of awareness about the impact shoes had on the long-term development of feet.
“Unfortunately, Australia hasn’t quite recognised the importance of childhood foot health – and there is little information available to help educate parents,” Mr Stewart says.
“Children’s feet and legs develop rapidly, and it can be difficult to know what is and isn’t normal. Unfortunately, it means too many children simply aren’t getting the right foot support.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are buying $50 shoes or $150 shoes, footwear should offer the right support and enough growing room for feet to develop naturally.
Mr Stewart said a foot measurement and shoe fit was non-intrusive and only took a minute.
“Technology has progressed since the 1950’s when shoe fitting fluoroscopes were used to take x-rays of feet. Now you only need a measuring gauge and an experienced shoe-fitter.”
He encouraged more parents to adopt a preventative approach to children’s foot health.
“Foot health should be treated like dental health,” he says.
“Children should visit a podiatrist before they start school and undergo a check-up at least annually, or more frequently if they experience pain or other symptoms.
“Better understanding how to properly care for young feet is vital in preventing lifestyle-limiting issues later in life.”
Mr Stewart said Balance Podiatry used video walking analysis and 3D foot scans as part of a physical assessment to discover and prevent any potential issues.
“If alignment issues are identified children may require custom-made foot orthotics (shoe inserts) to support and align the natural shape of the foot and ankle, and to assist the growing foot to grow straighter and stronger,” he says.
Our 5 Big Tips for Healthy Little Feet
Screen children’s feet early in life for immediate detection of problems
Choose quality, supportive footwear
Foot pain isn’t normal – get it checked by a podiatrist as soon as possible
Cut toenails often and straight to avoid ingrown nails
Commit children to an annual check-up by a podiatrist