Selecting the Best Footwear for a Growing Child

Selecting the Best Footwear for a Growing Child


  • Bowlegs occur when the knees extend too far out of line with the legs. The condition is genetically transferable and is most common among babies, although most infants grow out of the condition naturally.
  • Toe walking is normal among young infants who are just learning to walk. It usually goes away by the time they reach 3 years of age, but some children may walk like this for longer. Parents should not worry too much about children who occasionally walk like this.
  • For children just learning to walk, it is completely normal to see some with their feet far apart and arms extended to maintain balance. Other children may aim their feet outwards during this process. For children who do not grow out of walking this way, orthopedic shoes may provide a solution.

It is entirely normal to see young infants with their arms and legs far apart to help them maintain balance when first learning how to walk. Equally, it is also common to see some other children with their feet facing outwards when walking. As the back of their hips flex and gradually extend with age, their feet will usually come closer together again. However, in cases where children grow up walking with an irregularity, including flat feet, bowlegs and knock-knees, orthopedic shoes may provide a solution.

Foot abnormalities in children

Flat feet

Parents should not worry if they notice that their child has flat feet as the condition rarely leads to any serious future issues. Doctors will only consider treatment in cases where the condition leads to intense pain, and may recommend that the child avoids wearing certain types of footwear, such as high-heeled shoes, which could impact foot arch development. A child’s flat footedness may cause anxiety among parents, who worry that the condition could lead to problems in the future. In such cases, medical staff will reassure these parents that flat feet rarely cause serious problems and that their child will be entirely capable of playing all sports. Nevertheless, doctors may recommend that some children wear special padding in their shoes to support the arches of their feet, thereby reducing any pain associated with their flat feet.


This condition is caused by the knees extending too far outside of the legs’ normal position. Bowlegs is a genetically transferable disorder and is most common among babies. Bowlegs sufferers tend to grow out of the condition over time. Nonetheless, parents should take their child for a medical diagnosis that includes an assessment of their walking gait to check whether they require subsequent treatment.

Infants over the age of 2 years who still suffer with bowlegs, or those with a single bowleg, may be at risk of developing other, more serious disorders including:

Rickets: Rickets occur as a result of a calcium deficiency in the bones, and can usually be treated by increasing vitamin D and calcium intake. However, there are some forms of rickets that are caused by genetic irregularities and must be treated under the guidance of a specialist in endocrinology.

Blount disease: A condition affecting the shin bone, this disorder can be diagnosed when a child is approximately 2 years old. While its causes remain unknown, Blount disease results in growth abnormalities in the upper region of the shin bone and can be treated using surgery once the child has reached 3–4 years of age.


Many children tend to experience knock-knee between the ages of 3–6 years old due to changes associated with their physical development. The condition does not often require treatment, as the legs generally straighten with age, but some children may experience additional issues, such as knees touching and the distance between the lower legs being much greater than the distance between the upper thighs. Doctors will assess the severity of the abnormality and use this information to decide whether subsequent treatment is required.

Toe walking

Walking on the toes is completely normal for infants learning how to walk. As children become more familiar with movement they tend to stop walking on their toes. This disorder usually disappears by the age of 3, although in some cases it may last longer. Seeing their child occasionally walking on their toes is not something parents should be particularly concerned about. However, if the child constantly walks on their toes and continues to do so after they reach 3 years of age, parents should take them to consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment as required. Constant toe walking in children can also be associated with other disorders, including mental disabilities and severe muscular dystrophy.


A large number of children walk with their toes facing inward when they are between the ages of 2–5 years. The condition is associated with changes to the inner leg or other physical changes, and occurs as a result of requiring increased balance when learning to walk. The feet of children with this condition tend to naturally return to normal before the age of 8 years without the need for treatment. However, children who experience inflammation or blistering on the feet due to an imbalance of weight distribution should be assessed by an orthopedic surgeon who can advise parents on potential courses of treatment.

Recommendations for footwear

Size: Shoes that are a little large are better than shoes which may be too small and too tight.

Flexibility: Shoes should not be made from rigid material. They should keep the feet warm and be free from any sharp edges. The soles of these shoes should be flat but neither slippery nor overly grippy.

Material: Breathable material is preferable, especially in countries located in tropical regions.

Choosing the best shoes for your child

  • Shoes must fit the feet properly, so it is recommended that the feet be flexed and extended when trying them on. If the heel slips against the shoes, it means the shoes are too big. Buying shoes for the child to grow into is inadvisable because it could lead to them placing pressure on the muscles in their feet while walking.
  • Choose shoes that are sufficiently wide in the toe section so as not to squeeze the toes. A strong but flexible ankle section will help the child’s balance. Laces or Velcro can also help keep the heel in place while walking and prevent the foot from slipping forward, which could result in toe injuries.
  • Soles should not be too thick. They should be made from soft, light and flexible materials that also provide adequate grip as this will help control the child’s feet and balance when walking. The inner sole should not include any hard sections or rigid borders as this could lead to friction while walking, which may result in the child not wanting to wear the shoes.
  • Select footwear that is made from breathable materials to reduce moisture and potential bacteria build-up that can result from sweaty feet.
  • Avoid purchasing second-hand shoes as they may carry bacteria and may be less comfortable than new shoes.

These issues can all be prevented and treated with the selection of appropriate footwear. Therefore, be sure that children’s shoes are well-fitted to their natural foot shape. Should you still have any concerns or notice a potential abnormality, consult a specialist physician who will advise on potential courses of treatment.


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