Baby and children’s foot development

How your child’s feet develop and how to choose shoes that care for little feet

Step by Step foot development

Baby foot development - crawling

Crawling: 3-6 months

A baby’s foot contains no fully-formed bones. Instead, the shape is mapped out in soft, pliable bone, similar to cartilage. As your child grows, their soft bones will ossify, becoming more and more solid.

During this time, the bones are protected by a layer of subcutaneous tissue or ‘puppy fat’. But they can still easily be bent out of shape without you noticing and without your child feeling any pain. That’s why it’s so important to have shoes that give them the room
they need to grow.

Lightweight and flexible shoe styles with smooth, seamless interiors will help them as they learn how to move without rubbing their feet.

Baby foot development - cruising

 Cruising: 6-9 months

As your child starts to stand upright, the soft cartilage-like structure in their feet will start to ossify, turning into bone or bony tissue. Gradually the shape of the fully-grown foot will start to form.

At this stage, there are large gaps between the young bones, so the foot is still prone to being bent out of shape. Choose shoe styles with protective toe, heel and waist guards and textured side patterns to aid grip.

Baby foot development - walking

Walking: 9-18 months

There will be 25 bones forming in your child’s foot at this point, though there are still large gaps between them. It’s important that these bones are allowed to grow naturally, otherwise they can become misaligned.

The navicular bone – situated at the point where shoes are usually fastened – is yet to form. Instead, there’s a fatty pad on the instep where the arch will slowly develop over the next few years.

At this stage the foot will be growing very quickly – up to two whole sizes (16mm) every year. Choose shoe styles with close cropped soles to prevent tripping and additional padding to cushion active feet

Baby foot development - pre-school



Baby foot development - pre-school

Pre-School: 2-4 years

At this stage, the navicular bone will start to ossify and the ‘puppy fat’ around the bones will start to disappear. You’ll notice the foot taking on a more adult shape. Surprisingly, the foot will have more bones in it at this stage than at any other time – 45 separate bone centres that will grow together over the next 15 years of your child’s life.

If there’s no real arch development at this time, no problem. It’s perfectly natural at this age, so there’s no need to look for arch supports in shoes just yet.

Choose shoe styles with highly flexible fore-parts and shaped, stable back-parts, avoiding excessively flared or undershot heels which can create walking difficulties.

 Baby foot development - school

School Age & Beyond: 4+ years

The secondary bone centres that developed at around four years
of age are now fusing, the amount of ‘puppy fat’ will have reduced,
and the arch of the foot will be more visible and functional. The growth rate should begin to slow to around one whole size (8mm) a year, as the feet carry on developing, until your child is in their mid to late teens.

Choose shoe styles with durable materials which will withstand active play.

Choosing Shoes

Shoes that don’t fit properly can prevent natural growth, cause discomfort and lead to health problems. They can even adversely affect your child’s walking development. Always look for styles with:

  • Whole and half sizes and a choice of widths
  • Careful fitting from trained shoe fitters
  • Growing room: 10mm for pre-walkers, and 14mm for older children
  • Natural toe shapes
  • Leather uppers and soft, breathable materials
  • Fully-adjustable fastenings

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