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Children's feet

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Care for your baby's feet by keeping them warm, clean, and freely moving.
  • When your child is outside, make sure they have comfortable, breathable footwear.
  • When your child learns to walk, keep an eye out for foot problems.
  • You can speak to your doctor or a podiatrist about support for your child's feet.

Why is foot care important for my child?

Children's feet are always growing. The last bone in a child's foot only begins to form at around 3 years old. It's important to care for your child's feet so that they stay healthy as your child grows.

How can I care for my baby or toddler's feet?

There is a lot you can do to help keep your baby's feet in good condition.

Allow your child to move their feet freely

Babies develop important muscles by kicking and wriggling. This means that their feet need to be free and active. Make sure that their foot movements aren't held back by too-tight:

  • bedding
  • booties
  • any other foot covering

Keep your child's feet clean

Wash your child's feet every day with soap and water. Be sure to dry your baby's feet well, especially between the toes. This will keep baby's skin from getting soggy, and prevent infections.

When cleaning your child's feet keep an eye out for any:

  • cuts
  • sores
  • swelling
  • hard, flat bumps (warts)
  • ingrown toenails

You can talk to your doctor if you notice any issues.

Read about how to cut your baby's nails.

Embrace bare feet

When your baby begins to crawl and walk, let them do so barefoot. This is important to help their feet and toes develop normally.

In cold weather you can put footwear on your baby's feet to keep them warm, such as:

  • a grow suit
  • socks

You only need to put shoes on your baby when you are going outside.

Socks and booties

It's important to regularly check that your baby's socks and booties fit well. This is because babies grow very quickly. Something that fits loosely one week may be too tight the next, particularly if it shrinks in the wash.

What about when my child starts to walk?

Most children begin walking between 10 and 20 months of age. However, each child will develop differently. Some children will be physically and emotionally ready to learn to walk, and others won't.

Your child's legs and feet will develop best when they are learning to walk at their own pace. Don't rush it.

You don't need a baby walker or jumper. They are not necessary and can make it harder for your child to learn to walk. They can also be a trip hazard.

When your child first starts to walk, they may tend to:

  • walk on their tippy toes
  • with their toes pointing inwards or outwards

This is quite common, and most children grow out of it.

Physical activity

Most children are naturally active.

Let your child walk at their own pace, and only for distances that they can cover before becoming too tired.

If your child complains of pain or appears to be in pain every time they walk, it's best to have their feet checked.

How do I choose the right shoes for my child?

The main purpose of shoes is to protect feet from the surface that you walk on.

To make sure their shoes are not too tight, try to check your baby's footwear:

  • every 1 to 3 months until they are 3 years
  • every 4 months until they are 5 years

Shoes

Toddlers and babies don't need shoes unless they are going outside.

Once your child starts walking outside the home, they will need shoes to protect their feet. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to foot deformities. So, it's important that you get shoes that fit properly right from the very start.

Your child's shoes need to be the right:

  • length
  • width
  • depth

To make sure the dimensions are right, have your child's feet measured each time you are buying shoes. Your child's shoe should:

  • fit the natural shape of their foot, especially around their toes
  • not stop their toes from moving freely
  • have about 1cm room to grow between the longest toe and the end of the shoe
  • not be too loose or too tight around their heel

Children's feet sweat and need to be able to breathe. If possible, avoid synthetic shoes. Soft shoes made of natural fibres can help protect your child's feet.

Children don't always complain when their shoes start feeling tight. So it's important you check regularly that your child's shoes still fit properly.

Does my child have a foot problem?

One sign of a foot problem in your child is if:

  • one foot turns in or out more than the other
  • one foot turns in or out more over time

Some other signs of feet problems in children include if:

  • they aren't walking on their own by 18 months, or they often trip or fall
  • they have heel pain
  • they won't put weight on one leg, or their gait does not look symmetrical
  • they have hip or knee pain, especially after running around
  • they are still walking on their toes at 3 years
  • their shoes wear unevenly
  • they have skin rashes, bumps, or lumps on their feet

You should also seek medical advice if your child has been walking well, but then begins to:

  • limp
  • waddle
  • refuse to walk

When should I seek help?

If you think your child may have a problem with their feet or walking, you can get advice from:

  • your doctor
  • a community health nurse
  • a podiatrist

Resources and support

For more information you can visit the Australian Podiatry Association website.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023


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Need more information?

Children's feet and shoes - Better Health Channel

A child learning to walk receives important sensory information from the soles of their feet, and shoes can make walking more difficult.

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Children's foot health - myDr.com.au

Tips for taking care of your child`s feet. Information about babies' and toddlers' feet, walking, normal development and problems, choosing shoes and more.

Read more on myDr website

Flat feet in children

Most toddlers are flat footed because the arch in their foot develops as your child grows. Find out more about the causes and treatment of flat feet.

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Learning to walk

Your baby's first steps is one of the most exciting and memorable milestones in their development. See tips for encouraging independent movement.

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Gait: pigeon toe, out-toeing, toe walking | Raising Children Network

Gait disorders in children include pigeon toe or in-toeing, out-toeing and toe walking. Most gait disorders don’t need treatment, but it’s best to see a GP.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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