School is now underway for your children, but here’s the deal:
Education should be a lifelong endeavor!
Even though your children are the ones in school, you shouldn’t stop learning yourself. And a particular area that always provides so much benefit from continuing education (formal or otherwise) is physical health. After all, learning about health-related matters helps you make the best possible decisions when it comes to healthcare—for both you and your children.
More specifically, it’s especially beneficial for you to have at least a general education with regards to understanding how to best care for kids’ feet.
Why is this subject so important? Well, it comes down to the simple fact that you likely want your children to be happy and healthy more than anything else. A key to both of those—one that is (sadly) often overlooked—is foot health.
When feet function properly and do not cause pain, they can allow a child to explore the world and participate in favorite activities. Exploration and physical activity play key roles in child development: physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Accordingly, if you want healthy, happy children, then you need to make sure their feet are feeling and functioning as best as possibly during the schoolyear—and beyond!
With that in mind, here are five tips so your children can have optimal foot health all year long:
1. ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Sure, not every child is going to be a star athlete, and there are certainly kids who have no interest in sports, but every child should be physically active on a regular basis.
Positive habits—such as exercising regularly—that are most likely to endure over time are often ones that start at a young age. Obviously, one of the most important habits when it comes to physical health is exercise. No matter if this means signing up a child for organized sports or starting a family exercise routine, children should be physically active for at least sixty minutes a day.
As a thought, a child is more likely to stick with a particular sport if you provide options and let them choose. Sometimes, parents get a little caught up in thinking about what they enjoyed when young (or sports they still enjoy), but that isn’t always going to be the same for their kids.
For children who aren’t interested in competitive sports, you might want to consider walking, swimming, or perhaps running as possible exercises.
2. SAVE ONLINE SHOPPING FOR THINGS THAT AREN’T SHOES. We cannot overstate the importance of having footwear that fits properly and is activity-appropriate. This certainly applies to pretty much everyone who wears shoes, but can be particularly important for children.
The reason for buying children’s footwear at brick-and-mortar stores, instead of online, comes down to the simple fact that you need to ensure proper fit, and it’s impossible to do this while only having an image on a screen as your frame of reference.
Instead, children need to go along to the store and actually try on shoes.
An important consideration is the fact that labeled shoe sizes should only be used as a guideline. This is because shoe sizes aren’t always consistent between brands. This means a size-5 Nike might be the same as a size-5 ½ Adidas shoe (to use a couple of shoes brands as purely hypothetical examples). So use the sizes as starting points, but then rely on how the shoes really fit.
When we talk about “proper fit,” we are referring to shoes that firmly cradle the heel when laced—so feet do not slide around inside—but also have an appropriate amount of space in the toe box.
Both too much and too little room can be bad in respective ways, so you should strive to find shoes that have roughly your small finger’s width in space between the longest toe and front of the shoe. Also, when a shoe is laced, you should be able to slide your index finger down the back (between the shoe and heel) down to around your second knuckle.
One more consideration is this: shoes need to fit well at the time of purchase. It’s best to avoid the mindsets of “she’ll grow into them” or “the shoes will stretch out” or “he just needs to break them in.” If toes are crammed together or feet slide around when the shoes are laced, simply try on the next half-size until you find that proper fit.
3. KNOW HOW TO TRIM TOENAILS CORRECTLY. As long as they have toenails, people of any age can develop ingrown toenails. In part, this can be attributed to the fact that there are several potential root causes for nails to become ingrown.
Some causes of ingrown toenails are unavoidable. For example, when a nail becomes ingrown due to genetics, such as with an inherited toenail structure, there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent the problem from developing. One cause that is preventable, however, is improper toenail trimming.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows the right way to clip toenails.
When nails are rounded, the edges can potentially become ingrown. Toenails trimmed too short also have increased risk of ingrowing. Clip the nails straight across and keep them roughly even with the edge of their respective toes to lower a child’s risk for this common problem. And make sure you teach them this practice (so they will continue doing so when they start clipping their own nails).
4. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. Every parent can be forgetful sometimes as to how close children pay attention to them. The truth of the matter is that kids are quite observant. And this is understandable, because it’s a way they learn how to behave.
Just as a son or daughter who sees you skipping your veggies at dinner is more likely to do the same—no matter how much you stress the importance of eating their peas and carrots—they will pattern their own foot care practices after what you do.
A specific example you should set for your children is to take a couple of minutes every day to stretch your feet and lower legs. You don’t have to spend copious amounts of time doing this, but you do need to be consistent.
Taking 5-10 minutes for stretching can make a big difference in your foot health. (Tight connective tissues and muscles contribute to a variety of problems, so keeping them limber is rather beneficial.) You can do this while brushing your teeth or watching television (etc.) and your kids will take notice. Even better, encourage them to stretch with you!
5. CATCH PROBLEMS EARLY. This is another one of those things that’s sage advice for anyone, but is particularly important for children.
There are two big reasons for catching child foot problems at their earliest stages. First, foot problems cause pain and impair functionality. As we noted earlier, feet play major roles in health and happiness, so you don’t want a son or daughter suffering and missing out on developmental opportunities.
Beyond that, children’s feet are developing, and this means we may have the opportunity to provide a “course correction.” Until they reach peak physical maturity, young bones are fairly malleable. Since they are, we might be able to use a pair of custom orthotics to correct existing problems or prevent future issues like bunions, tendonitis, and heel pain.
These tips are all helpful in your quest to keep your children healthy and happy, but the tip that might actually be the most important is this:
Bring your son or daughter to see us as soon as you become aware of an existing or developing problem!
Early medical intervention is always the best possible practice for health-related issues. Even better is when the care is provided in a manner that is both gentle and effective for a suffering child. And that is exactly what you can expect when you bring a child to see us here at Ripepi & Associates Foot & Ankle Clinics.For more information on child foot care—or to request an appointment at either our Parma or Rocky River offices—simply give us a call at (440) 843-3692 or contact us online today.