Growing healthy feet – important part of child development
We often forget how important our feet are for our well-being. But consider this – our feet are our personal vehicle, they literally carry us through life. On average, a pair of feet will walk more than 150,000 kilometres over the span of a lifetime, and they will do so while carrying a heavy load. So having healthy feet is crucial for having a wholesome lifestyle, especially during the latter years of our lives.
Having healthy feet depends greatly on proper development during the childhood years. The feet have a complex structure, consisting of many bones, muscles and tendons. In fact, they account for about 25% of all the bones in a human body. The early formative years are the perfect time for those bones and muscles to become strong and flexible. The best way to achieve this is to ensure that the natural movement of a child’s feet is not hindered in any way. This means walking barefoot or with flexible, comfortable shoes.
Major sensory organ
Speaking of complex structure, it’s also worth noting that there are around 200,000 nerve endings in each foot, constantly communicating with the brain, providing information needed to perform skilful movement. Toes, the big toe in particular, have an especially important role in this, as they communicate to the brain whether our bodies are balanced.
Perhaps it is because of this strong connection between the feet and the brain that babies often experience significant developmental progress around the time they are first learning to walk. Walking is a major milestone in children’s early development.
While toes are important to maintain balance, the posture of the entire foot keeps the body stable and upright. Good posture ensures that our body weight is properly distributed. Failing to adopt good posture from an early age increases the risk of experiencing back-related problems later on. Habits, healthy or not are easier to pick up during the early years, so try to encourage your child to maintain good posture. Slouching is for grown-ups!
How fast do they grow?
A child’s feet typically grow very fast, especially during the first 15 months. During that period growth can reach a pace of half a size every two months. Things slow down a bit around age 2, but growth maintains a steady pace till around the age of 10.
As mentioned above, young feet need freedom to develop properly. This applies to growth as well. Keep this in mind when choosing footwear for your child - consider getting a bigger size to leave some room for growth.
Adults can also benefit from this approach. After all our feet continue to change over the span of our lives, so providing them with the freedom do so makes a lot of sense.