From guest blogger Lorraine Jones, Member of Council of the Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists (SCP)
A friend of mine, who is also a podiatrist, told me a slightly sad story the other day. He was in a well-known supermarket, queuing up at the tills. In front of him was a young mother with a young baby in the seat of the trolley.
He couldn’t help but notice her dangling legs and feet, on the end of which were a pair of tiny, but rock-solid, branded trainers. Being a friendly type, he mentioned to the Mum that she had a lovely child. “But,” he added “I was wondering why you have bought her those trainers? She doesn’t really need them at her age.”
Maybe he should have been wearing a T-Shirt reading “Trust me, I am a Podiatrist”. Unfortunately, that T-Shirt must have been in the wash that day, so he was incognito, which may explain the misunderstanding that followed.
“How dare you imply that I can’t afford good shoes for my kids!” the angry Mum replied. My embarrassed friend did his best to back-peddle, but the misunderstanding remained in place, as the Mum stomped off, and my friend did his best to recover from a good telling off.
“Stiff, over-supportive baby shoes are not only unnecessary, they also hinder healthy development of growing feet.”
At the heart of this misunderstanding is a very wealthy fashion industry, that makes money out of actively encouraging parents to dress children like adults; or, worse, as fashion accessories to suit the adult’s lifestyle. Up to a point, this is harmless enough. But, when it comes to feet, this trend is positively unhealthy. Hard, stiff, inflexible shoes with too much heel-lift are very bad for infant foot development.
What little feet need is soft, flexible, protective footwear that allows toes to wiggle and feet to develop as nature intended. Children’s feet are nothing like adult feet. They are mostly made up of cartilage, and this cartilage doesn’t fully ossify until they are in their teens. Just imagine the damage that a tight, stiff pair of trainers can do to a child who is only just learning to walk.
My friend sadly failed to get an important message across. Maybe this blog will do a little better. Feel free to spread the word: when it comes to very small children, stiff, over-supportive shoes are not only unnecessary, they also hinder healthy development of growing feet.