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Pink toddler sandals

Your toddler is constantly on the go, clocking up the miles as they explore the world. Dr Carol Cooper explains how to care for those hard-working feet as they grow.

Choosing footwear

  • Because the bones in a toddler’s feet are vulnerable to pressure and damage, and they’re still growing fast (sometimes by more than two shoe sizes a year), it’s vital to check the fit of your toddler’s shoes around every eight weeks. Go to a shoe shop with trained fitters, or check your toddler’s shoes yourself. There should be extra space beyond the toes, and the shoe should not be tight anywhere, especially over the span of the foot (at the base of the toes). There’s no point buying shoes that are too big, as they will rub and may even fall off.
  • You also need to check that your toddler’s socks aren’t too tight. Buy new pairs regularly, in the correct size, and check for shrinkage.
  • Always protect your little one’s feet outdoors by insisting they wear well-fitting footwear.

Keeping feet clean

  • Feet are sweaty, so good hygiene will help prevent common infections. Bathtime is a good time to check your toddler’s feet for problems, such as blisters, splinters, ingrowing toenails or verrucas. Always dry the feet well. Athlete’s foot is uncommon in toddlers, but it can develop between the toes, especially if they’re not dried properly.
  • Verrucas – small warts on the feet with a black root at the centre – are very common, and are often picked up in public spaces like swimming pools. Carry smaller toddlers poolside, or insist your child wears water shoes or flip-flops at the baths. Most verrucas will disappear within two years, but check with your doctor if you’re concerned. They’re highly infectious so make sure an affected toddler has their own bath mat and towel at home to avoid risk of cross-infection.
  • Check and trim your toddler’s toenails regularly. Cut each nail straight across, without tapering down at the sides, to help prevent ingrowing toenails.

Common problems

  • Flat feet – it’s normal for toddlers to have flat feet, but they usually develop arches by age three. If you’re concerned, see your doctor for a check-up.
  • Toe-walking – some toe-walking is fine, but your toddler shouldn’t always walk in this way. If they do, take them to your doctor. The root cause is sometimes a mild neurological problem, but something can be done about it, so don’t panic.
  • Curly or over-riding toes – these have a variety of causes, from inherited foot shape to club foot. An over-riding second toe is quite common and often resolves on its own, but check with your doctor.
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