What Shoes are Best for My Child?

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Chantilly Chiropractic Center

Your child is starting to walk. That’s great! So what shoes are best for proper foot development?

Learning to walk is one of the most exciting and important stages in your child’s motor development. Not only in the first few years of life does your child develop muscles necessary for maturity, but they are also forming the curvatures in their spines that will support them throughout their entire life.

A child’s first footwear influences gait development and provides neurological feedback from the feet to the brain. Proper footwear can also:

• Establish healthy posture and optimal biomechanics as the child grows
• Offers biomechanical support which can alleviate growing pains
• Help keep children stable and supported to lessen the risk of injury at play or in sports

Why is a Chiropractor Concerned About Children’s Shoes?
Mechanical changes in the spine due to abnormal gait and foot development can affect spinal development such as scoliosis. Chiropractors are experts in detecting falling arches, ankle pronation and ankle supination. Your doctor can help in recommending shoes to support the natural progression of developing feet as well as assess gait patterns in your child.

What to Look for in Your Baby’s or Toddler’s First Pair of Shoes

Avoid Raised Heels
To ensure proper weight distribution, promote proper posture, and prevent toe cramping and deformity avoid any raised heels. A raised heel in a child’s shoe can promote unwanted pronation (“toeing in”) of the feet as well as instability within the ankles.

Stiff Soles Limit Movement
For developing feet (infants and toddlers), flexible soles are preferred in order to influence normal foot strength and mobility.

Nonslip or Rubber Soles
To reduce the potential for falls and injuries, avoid soles that are too slippery or too sticky.

Choose Properly Sized Shoes
When looking for shoes ensure there is at least one thumb width of space between the end of the longest toe and tip of the shoe

Avoid Hand-Me-Downs
Once a child begins to walk, ensure to avoid hand-me-down shoes so they can develop their own unique wear patterns based on their gait and own foot shape and needs

Check Monthly
During the beginning stages of walking, development of the feet can be rapid. Make sure to check monthly to ensure proper gait development is occurring

Baby Footwear
Babies learn to walk by gripping surfaces with their toes and developing muscles in their feet over time. Neurological feedback from the foot to the brain is important during this time because it provides your baby with the beginning of their proprioception skills. During the first stages of walking, allow your baby to walk around without shoes as much as possible so that natural development of the foot arches can occur.

Common Foot Problems & What to Look For
By the age of 7-years old, gait and posture are nearly identical to that of an adult. Foot problems throughout life can be common if foot arches are not properly developed during the beginning of gait development. Unfortunately, due to many shoe brands having inadequate foot support, foot problems are common and can be seen in adolescence:

Flat Feet or Pes Planus
Have you heard that your child has flat feet? The tendency to develop flat feet can be both inherited as well as developmental. Flat feet or pes planus, is when there is a loss of the medial (middle) longitudinal arch of the foot. Because of this loss in the arch, there tends to be a disproportionate loading throughout the foot and ankles. This can leave to joint aches, knee pains, and low back pain in children.

This condition has been referred to as the most common complaint associated with gait in children. In-toeing means that when a child walks or runs, the feet turn inward instead of pointing straight ahead. It is commonly referred to as being “pigeon-toed.” In-toeing is often first noticed by parents when a baby begins walking, but children at various ages may display in-toeing for different reasons. In the vast majority of children younger than 8 years old, in-toeing will almost always correct itself without the use of casts, braces, surgery, or any special treatment. Exercising the involved external rotation muscles, wearing good support shoes, chiropractic adjustments, and focusing on sports and activities that develop balanced leg muscles are treatments that can help reduce future in-toeing complications.

When observing, your child be sure to notice these few things:

• Favoring one side over the other while walking
• Bottom of shoes have significant wear and tear on one side or on the inside/outside of the shoe
• Inward toe formation
• Child complaining of “joint” pain
• One hip is higher than another
• Baby is having issues with gait development
• Irritation on feet

Shoe Recommendations for Children
For the vast majority of young infants and toddlers, special shoes are not necessary unless severe issues are presented. In fact, the best shoes for infants and toddlers are those that come close to allowing the foot to function as if it were not in a shoe. There needs to be plenty of breathability and room for future growth, as well as flexibility to support the natural development of the feet. Elevated heels, pointed toes, and small sized shoes all contribute to future foot problems.

Feet are the body’s foundation. Thus, improper shoe wear for children can cause long-standing problems by shifting the body’s natural alignment, which may lead to aches and pains in the feet, knees, hips, neck and/or spine. Talking with your chiropractor to ensure proper footwear throughout your child’s development is important to ensure a healthy posture and optimal biomechanics as they grow.

For questions, additional information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected].

Dr. Wellner, Chantilly Chiropractic CenterDr. Wellner, a Chiropractor at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, received her Doctorate of Chiropractic Degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic and is the recipient of the James Buerkle Memorial Award for leadership, service, and commitment to Palmer College and the chiropractic profession. As a physician, she strongly believes in patient education and empowering patients and their families to improve the quality of their lives through a multidisciplinary approach. Dr. Wellner works with local OBGYN offices, general practitioners, orthopedic doctors, neurologists, personal trainers, and other healthcare professionals to administer optimal care to her patients.

For her pediatric patients, Dr. Wellner believes in allowing a child’s natural healing abilities to shine through by using a combination of gentle spinal adjustments and nutritional/lifestyle recommendations. In her quest to educate others about the role of chiropractic in children’s health care, Dr. Wellner hosts classes and lectures in Northern Virginia about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for expectant mothers, babies, and families. Dr. Wellner is also a member of the Unified Virginia Chiropractic Association, American Chiropractic Association, Dulles Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Dulles Chamber Health and Wellness Committee as well as the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected]m. Chantilly Chiropractic Center is located at 3910 Centreville Rd., Ste. 202, Chantilly, VA 20151. Connect: Online | Facebook | (703) 378-2698.

Schafer, R. C. “Body Alignment, Posture, and Gait.” Clinical Biomechanics: Musculoskeletal Actions and Reactions. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1983. N. pag. Print.
Williams, C. M., Tinley, P., & Curtin, M. (2010). Idiopathic toe walking and sensory processing dysfunction. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, 3, 16.
Downshen, Steven, MD. “Is My Baby Ready for Shoes?” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Oct. 2014. Web.
Campitelli, Nicholas, DPM. “How Shoe Choices For Children Can Affect Foot Development.” How Shoe Choices For Children Can Affect Foot Development | Podiatry Today. Podiatry Today, 20 June 2012. Web.
“Intoeing-OrthoInfo – AAOS.” Intoeing-OrthoInfo – AAOS. N.p., n.d. Web. Jan. 2017.
Wellness Media-The Healing Series. First Footwear and Gait Development. Wellness Media-The Healing Series, Print.
American Podiatric Medical Association. What You Should Know-Children’s Foot Health.: American Podiatric Medical Association, n.d. Print.
Mosca, V. S. (2010). Flexible flatfoot in children and adolescents. Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics, 4(2), 107–121.

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