Kids Foot Health: Learning to walk in early years – what’s normal?

Kids Foot Health: Learning to walk in early years – what’s normal?

With your kids seeming to get bigger every day so many changes happening as they do, it can be really hard to know what’s normal and what’s not.  So we thought we’d shed some light into what changes you can expect to see as your kids navigate learning to walk in their first few years!

The first steps
Typically, kids begin walking between 8-20 months old. Falling in the later end of that range doesn’t mean that anything is wrong – some kids are just more interested in walking than others and pursue it and build up those muscles sooner. Once the muscles are strong enough, there’s enough stability and your child feels happy and confident, they’ll soon start walking.

Hint: Keep an eye on your child’s developmental milestones. A pattern tends to develop over many of the milestones if they begin them early or late.

In-toeing & Out-toeing
It’s not uncommon to see kids walking ‘pigeon-toed’ – with their feet pointed inwards, as they’re learning to walk. They may also walk with their toes pointed outwards. This tends to occur from the rotated position of the thigh bone and leg bone and should correct itself by the age of 2 or so, though in some kids it can take a little longer. If the in-toeing or out-toeing is continuing past two years old and you’re beginning to worry, a good thing to look out for is whether it’s causing your kids to trip, fall, be generally unstable on their feet or not be able to keep up with their friends when running and playing sport. If the answer is yes, it’s a good idea to have their feet checked by a Podiatrist.

Hint: Sometimes when kids feel unstable on their feet, they may try to avoid outdoor activities or running as it feels much more comfortable and safe to stay indoors. If this sounds like your child, make sure to check that there’s nothing else going on.

Toe walking and other abnormal walking patterns
If your child has a preference to walk on their tip toes, this could either be due to a repeated learnt behaviour that they do because they want to and there’s nothing wrong, or it could be because of pain or discomfort at the back of the heel due to a shortened achilles tendon for example. If this was the case then they’ll learn that walking on their toes is more comfortable and less sore than walking normally, and so they’ll keep doing it. Often the two are actually linked – kids begin walking on their toes for fun and over time their achilles tendon adapts to the shortened position. From there it becomes uncomfortable to put
the heel back on the ground. Alongside toe walking, kids can pick up all sorts of unusual habits and tendencies as they grow. After all, they’re just getting to know what works for them through trial and error. While kids tend to grow out of these tendencies, if a behaviour is persisting or you’re worried, bring your kids in to see your Podiatrist.

Broad stance and bowed knees
If you’re just learning to walk, your safest bet is to have your feet wide apart to give you the most stability. This correlates with the bowed leg and bent knee position where the knees are bowed outwards. As muscles strengthen and confidence grows, the base of gait will narrow and become normal and the knees will straighten (though for some kids the knees will turn inwards – knock knees – before straightening again). Again if the bowed legs and wide stance persists long past 2 years old, bring them in for a check.

These are just some of the changes you can expect as your kids learn to walk – there are plenty more! Because kids are so flexible and mobile, early treatment produces fantastic results with kids. Problems like muscular weakness or imbalances, which are much more difficult to treat in adulthood, can be efficiently addressed too.

If you have any concerns or see something that’s not quite right, we recommend taking them to see the team at Sole Motion Podiatry in Tarneit, Sanctuary Lakes & Altona Meadows. This team are fantastic with kids and specialise in their care. We’ve seen plenty of happy kids & parents after their visits! They have a special pediatric assessment for kids and Principal Podiatrist, Justin, has young kids himself so knows exactly what it’s like. You can get in touch by giving them a call on 1300 FX FEET.

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