As a proud father there is no greater joy in life than seeing your first son or daughter take their first steps in life. To see them balance on two legs and bravely take those first ginger steps on their own is one of life’s great moments. The joy you experience only overshadowed by their joy and tremendous sense of achievement.
October is Foot Health Month with the theme “Our Feet are for Life” and the importance of looking after your child’s feet from those first few steps should not be underestimated. As a podiatrist I often get asked questions on what to look for and what to wear so here are a few handy hints.
What age should my child walk?
There is no definitive age on when your child should take their first steps. Remember everyone is different and some children will have stronger muscles and ligaments than others which will allow them to walk sooner. Other factors like motivation and temperament will also play a role. On average most children will walk anywhere between 9 months and 18 months. If your child is not walking by 18 months or not hitting their milestones then it may pay to get an assessment by a podiatrist.
What if my child doesn’t crawl?
Not all kids will crawl before they walk and it does not seem an essential milestone to reach to enable walking. Certain conditions like tight muscles may make crawling difficult. Some children may have superior gross motor skills and decide to skip the crawling stage and get straight into walking. Once again you should only be concerned if your child is not hitting their other milestones or if it appears they may be lagging behind other children.
What should a child’s first steps look like?
Once again it is important to remember everyone is different and no two children alike. As a general rule a child’s first steps will be small and uncoordinated. They will usually have a wide base of gait, feet turning out and a stomping, waddling gait. Their balance will be poor, their movements jerky and tripping will be inevitable. They will certainly not have a smooth heel toe gait like an adult. This will come closer to age 3 or 4 once they have built up their muscles, balance and proprioception.
What shoes should my child wear in the early days of walking?
It is important to encourage plenty of barefoot walking as this helps with muscle development, balance and proprioception. Soft flexible shoes or booties are all that’s required in the early stages of walking. Firmer harder shoes should only be worn once your child is walking longer distances outside or on rougher surfaces. Generally this will be once your child has improved balance and coordination. There are some cases where a firmer shoe is required to help enable better walking and if in doubt about your child’s feet or walking your should seek podiatric advice.
When should I be concerned about my child’s walking?
If your child isn’t symmetrical in their feet or legs, if one or both legs are turning in, if tripping is becoming more frequent or if they don’t appear to be advancing in their walking then it would be worthwhile to seek advice from a podiatrist. Most concerns are usually just part of normal development and require simple reassurance.
Your children’s feet are for life!
Overall your child’s first steps are an event you will never forget and one of the proudest days of your life. Remember your child’s feet are for life so take good care of them.
If you are ever concerned of your child’s feet or gait then our Melbourne podiatrists are experienced with children of all ages. They can assess your child’s gait and provide you with the best advice and treatment. Most problems only require patient reassurance but it never hurts to get a second opinion and put your mind at rest. The saddest words we often hear from parents are “we only wish we had brought our child in sooner.”