They are often still so small, but are similar in structure to an adult's feet. Children's feet also have 28 bones, 31 joints, numerous tendons, ligaments and muscles together with thousands of fine nerves all in a compact space. In the course of our lifetime, our feet have to cope with a mammoth task - by the time we're 70 years old, they will have carried us around the globe about three times - altogether about 120,000 kilometres. To make sure they survive without too much trouble, it is important to ensure that even the smallest children wear the right shoes.
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to know this yet. Many children and youngsters suffer from weak feet and even initial foot problems which end up causing posture defects. In most cases, this is caused by the wrong shoes. Scientific studies show that the earlier these problems occur, the more negative their effect on the physical development of the children as they continue to grow. Today we know that the locomotor system is a complex, networked and interacting system rather than a set of individual, isolated elements.
Approx. 98% of all people are born with healthy feet, but only about 40% of them will still have healthy feet as adults.
One important piece of information for parents: sturdy shoes are not necessary in the first twelve months of a child's life. It's even better to manage without socks, which reduce stimulation of the receptors that are to be found in the soles of the feet. These receptors play a crucial role for the development of strong foot muscles and for the formation of sensorimotor capabilities.
Children start to learn to walk at an age of about twelve months. Many parents immediately turn to so-called "learn-to-walk" shoes. But more recent medical findings indicate that even at this age it is still much too soon for sturdy shoes. The locomotor system is still weak and unstable so that it is better to choose shoes that make a functional contribution to improving the child's stability. That means highly flexible materials to give the child's foot unrestricted movement, while still warranting a firm stand. In addition, the feet should be able to "feel" the ground, which triggers additional positive stimuli. All that helps to prevent skewed and splayed feet which are already so widespread in children.
Ideally, the foot and leg axis stabilisers (muscles, ligaments, foot skeleton) that are so important for the overall equilibrium of the body are adequately developed by the time a child starts school. In other words: the longitudinal and transverse arch of the foot have been formed, with functional, appropriate working of the leg axes. The shoes should support natural development of the feet and encourage an active, playful life style.
The next important phase in the development is the middle to late school age. Longitudinal growth is slower by now, with the youngster now becoming broader. Here the right shoes can help to alleviate or even prevent classic foot and posture weaknesses. A correct, accurate fit is crucial in this phase. After all, an upright body posture and long-term spinal health are crucially dependent on strong and healthy feet.
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