As a parent, you’re no doubt very accustomed to checking and attending to your little one’s bumps, bruises, aches, and pains.

Skinned knees? Seems like once per week all summer long.

Bump on the noggin? All the time.

But while a fresh shiner or an open cut is pretty hard to miss (even if your child isn’t crying bloody murder), some childhood injuries and issues are easier to accidentally overlook. Unfortunately, the feet and ankles often fall into this category.

And that’s something you definitely want to avoid.


Well, a lot of foot problems actually do emerge in childhood, rather than after a few decades of wear and tear. And if they do, you’re going to want to treat them as early as you can. Otherwise, problems may continue to worsen and persist into adulthood.

If you want to give your child the best chance at healthy feet to last a lifetime, make sure you’re checking them regularly—and teaching them to do the same when they’re old enough.

Check Their Feet

The most basic tip, of course, is simply examining your child’s feet directly. Bath time is ideal for the youngest children; bedtime for older kids who are already bathing themselves. (It may be helpful to sing a song or play a game to get kids engaged while you check their feet.)

Kids are very prone to developing rashes, athlete’s foot, warts on the soles of their feet, and other skin infections on the feet.

They are also fairly likely to develop ingrown toenails, which can be very painful for a child (or anyone unfortunate enough to develop one). Ingrown toenails should be treated swiftly by a professional if you spot one; we can remove it quickly in our office with a relatively simple procedure. We can also stop it from coming back, too, by cauterizing a small section of the nail matrix.

Watch Them Walk

No child develops a perfect, adult-like stride right away. There will be some toddling and waddling, at least for a while.

But you should still keep an eye out for more obvious signs of abnormal gait. If your child appears to be walking funny, or the feet and legs don’t seem to be in the right position, bring them in for a checkup.

Common pediatric gait abnormalities include:

  • Toes that point inward or outward when walking
  • Bow legs
  • Knock knees
  • Rigid flat feet (i.e., the arches always appear flat)
  • Flexible flat feet (i.e., the arches only disappear during weight bearing)
  • Walking on tiptoes constantly
  • High-stepping gait
  • Limping

Not all these conditions will necessarily need treatment, as kids may grow out of them on their own in time. However, bringing them in for an evaluation as soon as possible helps us determine which cases do need treatment, and provide the necessary care.

Examine Their Shoes

Kids grow out of their shoes fast.

Like, really fast.

During the toddler years, your child might need four new sizes per year! Even by the tween years, they might still be outgrowing their shoes every 6-9 months, and sometimes more than that depending on the timing of the growth spurts.

If your child still isn’t old enough to put on their own shoes, it’s pretty obvious to the parent when the shoes are getting too small. Otherwise, you may have to test their shoes once in a while or teach them to do it.

Generally, there should be about a thumb’s width (a half-inch or so) of space between the longest toe (either the first or second) and the front of the shoe. Too much smaller than that, and shoes will start to pinch and cramp. Too much longer, and your child might be tripping over their own shoes.

The bottoms of their shoes can also provide subtle clues about your child’s foot health. If your child has a normal stride, tread wear tends to be concentrated across the middle of the heels and the balls of the feet, with maybe a little extra wear under the big toe. However, if the shoes are wearing unevenly along one side of the shoe, or in one shoe and not the other, there may be an abnormality worth addressing.

Observe Their Behavior

You may notice other certain behavioral cues that may indicate foot pain or gait abnormalities.

Of course, the biggest telltale sign is your child verbally complaining to you about their heel pain. Take those complaints seriously! Heel pain is not normal for a child—or anyone—and is a pretty unmistakable sign that something needs to be either treated or adjusted.

More subtle clues may include:

  • Suddenly shying away from sports or outdoor play
  • Frequent requests to be carried
  • Frequent tripping
  • Frequently removing shoes and socks, even in cars, stores, public places, etc.

If you notice any of the above signs or have any other concerns about your child’s feet and ankles, taken them in to see Dr. Dailey. We love meeting kids and their families and work hard to create a welcoming, comforting, and gentle environment for all ages.

To schedule an appointment at our Freeland Foot & Ankle Clinic, please give us a call at (989) 695-6788.

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