How your child’s feet develop and how to choose shoes that care for little feet
Step by Step foot development
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
Lightweight and flexible shoe styles with smooth, seamless interiors will help them as they learn how to move without rubbing their feet.
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.
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
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.
School Age & Beyond: 4+ years
The secondary bone centres that developed at around four years
Choose shoe styles with durable materials which will withstand active play.
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