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In Conversation With Karen Randell

We recently had the chance to speak with Karen Randell, Start-Rite’s expert podiatrist, to talk all things first shoes, foot development, and those all important first steps…

Is there an average age for when my child should start walking? 

The first signs of walking for toddlers are when they begin cruising and pulling themselves up to find their balance. This happens around 10 – 14 months old, becoming more and more confident and stable between 14 and 24 months when they experience a more rapid growth rate.

How important is it that my child wears correctly fitted shoes?

Correctly fitting shoes should still allow for the natural development of the child, but also keeping the feet protected enough for outside walking. Around 70% of adult foot problems come from wearing poorly fitting shoes or the wrong footwear – the majority of these caused by ill-fitting shoes as a child. Over 30 million is spent annually on podiatry services for the over 60-year-olds and most of the problems can be attributed to badly fitting shoes or unsuitable footwear in childhood. Ideally children should see a trained fitter and in the early years, shoes need to be changed every two to three months to allow the feet to naturally grow.

Around two and half years old the rate of growth begins to slow, and parents should pay close attention to their child’s walking pattern to ensure they have adequate footwear. During the first three to four years, they can grow as much as two whole shoe sizes each year. By school age, this growth slows to about one whole size each year.

How do I know when my child is ready for walking shoes? 

In my opinion, children only need footwear when they begin to venture onto surface’s that are unfit for their feet, e.g. outside. It is a good idea to not rush into shoes, so to allow barefoot walking when possible for the natural development of the child. However, when they are able to walk outside its time to think about shoes that will act as a protection barrier for the foot, as well as ones that allow the natural development of the feet, allowing the child to explore and continue learning about the world around them.

How often should you replace your child’s shoes?

After the first pair of shoes ideally change every two to three months to allow feet to naturally grow. At around two and half years old rate begins to slow and the parent should pay close attention to child’s walking pattern. During the first three to four years they can grow as much as two whole shoe sizes each year and by school age this slows to about one whole size each year. It’s always best to bear in mind that children grow at different rates even in the same family!

My child is unstable when walking. Should I keep them barefoot until they’re walking confidently?

At around 10-14 months the first signs of walking for toddlers is a period called ‘cruising’ when the toddler pull themselves up to find their balance. Often they appear to be waddling as they learn how to balance. Toddlers only need footwear at this stage to protect against surfaces unfit for their feet such as outside. So as long as the surface is safe for their feet, its best to keep them barefoot to allow natural development.

How can I keep my child’s feet healthy?

In my opinion, it is best to check their feet regularly to see if the child has any of the problems mentioned above. It doesn’t take long for a quick visual examination, so these can be done often. Make sure that the feet are washed daily, that the skin is soft and there are no areas of rubbing caused by shoes and socks that may be too tight, and ensure they have fresh socks each day. Parents need to be aware that when putting their child’s shoes on, the shoe fit is still adequate, looking at the points I mentioned earlier regarding shoe fit. Finally, it is a good idea to inspect the shoes for excessive signs of wear and tear; that the heel counter is still strong and that any laces, buckles or rip-tape fastenings are still intact and not worn away.

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