When you’re looking at a babies feet you’ll notice they’re quite chubby, round and don’t appear to have a lot of structure. That’s because they don’t. A babies foot is predominantly made up of cartilage and tissue and needs time to develop and form.
With the baby’s bones and joints being so soft and flexible, her feet do not have the natural capacity to support body weight. It takes a while for her bones to fully form because the bones need to strengthen and develop so that during the first six months of infancy, her feet are largely composed of pliable cartilage protected by layers of tissues, affectionately known as “puppy fat”.
The feet are prone to bending out of shape, especially when weight is forced on it. But since it’s so soft and bendable, the baby won’t feel any pain if that happens. Its development, however, can be affected if proper care is not given to it.
Between the age of 3 to 6 Months
At this point, a baby require no shoes or feet support to aid with her growth and development. Even socks should be lose fitting and not squash or hinder movement. Any shoes must be made of very light materials, much like a pair of regular socks to allow the feet to breathe, bend and flex.
Between the age of 6 to 9 Months
The baby begins to use her body functions more by this time. She begins to discover how to stand and her feet’s bones and tissues are beginning to take shape too. But as her bones are still young and soft and a lot of muscle development and sensory awareness is taking place in the feet, wearing shoes that are rigid and stiff will not have a positive impact on the feet. In fact rigid shoes should definitely be avoided, especially for long periods of time.
Between the age of 9 to 18 Months
As she starts to walk the baby’s feet remain flat and the arch of the foot is not yet developed. There are large gaps between the bone’s structures and during this period, the feet’s growth and development accelerates faster than at any other time. With the baby quite active and mobile shoes become more important to protect the sole of the foot from sharp and hard objects; and the toes from stubbing on concrete and gravel. However the shoes must not yet provide support, cushioning or heel elevation. The foot is still forming as nature intended and it’s important to allow plenty of flexing and movement to enable muscles to develop properly. The necessary flexibility of the shoes will also minimise the risk of tripping, which is very common in rigid shoes.
The Pre-School Years (2-4 Years Old)
The baby’s bone structure on the feet becomes more defined as puppy fat, especially around the navicular area where the shoes are fastened or tied starts disappearing. While the feet may still look prominent, the arch is beginning to take shape at this point , so wearing shoes with a stable backside to facilitate its development can help.
The School Years (Beyond 4 Years Old)
As the child becomes more active and learns to run, leap and do all sorts of things with her feet, so too the bones grow stronger and more efficient. The arch is forming and quite visible by this time that with proper shoes to support an active lifestyle, the child’s feet development should carry well into adolescence.
If flat feet run in the family, however, the arch may not become prominent. By age 5, the paediatrician should be able to determine this and then suggest ways of managing flat feet, should that be the case.