Most parents in the UK are in the middle of entertaining their children during the school Summer holidays, and although the countdown to the new school term might not be on just yet, you may have started thinking about the “back to school” shop and children’s footwear.
In today’s world, almost everyone needs to wear shoes to protect their feet from various terrains and temperatures. It is vital to be familiar with the best practices when it comes to investing in shoes due to the impact footwear can have on an individual’s quality of life and health. Therefore, incorrect footwear could potentially have a negative effect on one’s feet in the long term, this is why it is so important that children have well-fitted, good-quality footwear from when they first start walking and throughout their school career.
When presenting to a podiatrist with a foot problem, footwear is mostly brought up in the conversation and the reason is that footwear can contribute to an array of foot disorders. It is not recommended to purchase shoes solely based on their appearance because what you see is not always what you get. The design of the shoe can have an impact on the function of the foot, encouraging correct walking patterns or promoting pathological walking patterns.
The following list outlines commonly seen issues in children that are a direct consequence of incorrect footwear:
Ingrown toenails: Shoes that fit too tightly, especially around the toe area of the feet worsen the risk of ingrowing toenail as it pushes onto the affected nail and causes it to dig into the skin.
Corns and calluses: If a shoe does not have enough support or cushion, then hard skin can form on the areas that are subject to pressure/impact causing corns, calluses and blister formation. It is quite rare for children to form hard skin or corns as the young foot has a quick skin turnaround time but can occur in children that have a genetic disposition of keratoderma which is a disorder that causes excessive hard skin formation on the soles of the feet or even the palms of their hands
Heel pain: Heel pain can be a consequence of poorly made shoes due to insufficient support on the sole of the feet. The heel cup could also cause irritation on the back of the heel and cause blistering or deformity on the back of the heel.
Fungal and Viral infections: The material that a shoe is made from can sometimes promote sweat and subsequently the growth of fungi or the spread of verrucae in the shoes.
Nail injuries: Nails can be injured by ill-fitting shoes especially if the foot is subject to high impact in the case of sports. This can cause blood to form under nails, and even nails to fall off causing nails to grow back thicker and making them prone to fungal infections of the nails.
Bunions: Although quite rare in children, bunion deformities could be a consequence of footwear. Shoes that do not accommodate such deformities encourage rubbing of toes and can alter the way the child walks and encourage pathological pressure distribution on the feet.
The above-listed issues have lasting effects on the foot. Ingrown toenails can occur in a case where footwear is not addressed, this can cause the nail to grow thicker over time. Having corns and calluses on the feet causes scar tissue over the affected area putting individuals at risk to developing them for the rest of their lives. Usually corns and calluses resolve when the underlying issue is addressed. Heel pain can also become chronic as the structures affected form scar tissue when subjected to prolonged injury. Fungal nail infections and nail injuries are notorious for affecting nail growth, causing nails to grow thicker and making them much harder to manage. Bunions usually get worse with time anyway, even though there is mostly a genetic influence behind their incidence, wearing the wrong type of footwear can also exacerbate these and increase the rate of the progression of the deformity.
Choosing the correct footwear, especially in a child’s developing feet is therefore crucial for foot health throughout life and should not be taken lightly, for more information read our guide to children’s foot care.