Growth and development
Newborns and pre-crawlers
We all love babies feet, they're perfectly soft and squeezable! The bones haven't yet formed and are made of only cartilage, waiting to ossify and strengthen into bone as they grow older. For this reason, baby's feet are extremely vulnerable and shouldn't be squeezed into too tight socks or babygrows. The arches of the feet have not yet developed so all babies are naturally flat footed.
The hips are externally rotated resulting in legs that lie far apart with knees facing outwards. As the baby grows, the hips will start to rotate internally until the knees are facing forwards.
Shoes aren't needed at this stage, so don't be tempted by the range of cute baby shoes around, they just aren't necessary before a baby starts to walk and can endanger the growth and development of your babies feet.
Starting to move around
Between age 6 and 9 months, babies will start trying to crawl. Some babies crawl backwards before they crawl forwards. Some learn to walk without ever crawling. Others are bottom shufflers. At this age, they will also start to pull themselves upright and stand, holding onto the furniture.
As your baby starts to move around, you will naturally want to protect their feet from bumps and scrapes. However, try and keep them barefoot as much as possible as this will help soft tissue growth and muscle development.
Some retailers do sell special 'crawling' shoes with lightweight flexible soles which can protect your baby's feet from knocks and scrapes, but they don't need to wear them all of the time. Give their feet the chance to grow and develop naturally. If you do buy 'crawling' shoes at this stage, always go to a trained shoe fitter.
Between the ages of 10 and 18 months, babies will start to walk alone. Arms will spread out to the sides and the feet are positioned far apart to aid balance. The knees and ankles do not flex when the baby walks, making steps heavy and clumsy. Between 18 months and 2 years old, balance and stability will have improved enough to kick a ball.
When babies are walking unaided for most of the day, inside and out, it's time to invest in their first pair of shoes. First shoes need to be lightweight and really flexible with all round grip to prevent slipping and stumbling for those unsteady steps.
Walking and running
By around 3 years old, walking becomes more confident and streamlined, without the need for arms for balance. Changes are still taking place at the hips, knees and feet, slowly rotating the legs into a more adult position with hips and knees pointing forwards. The knees and ankles start to flex making walking and running more efficient and there is a definite heel to toe motion. The arch of the foot is starting to form yet still has a long way to go and at this age, children are still flat footed.
Onwards and upwards
From around the time your child starts school (age 5) their feet will start to resemble those of an adult. The body's nervous system is now fully developed. Walking will also be more adult like. However, their feet are still a long way from the finished article and even at age 8 bones are still not fully formed. In fact, children's feet will continue to grow well into their teens.
If you have any concerns about your child's growth and development, speak to your GP, health visitor or podiatrist.