Between birth and age 4, the foot doubles in size. As a baby, your child has 22 partially developed bones, but will have 26 bones as an adult. By the time they’ve reached their first birthday, their foot is almost half the size of what it will be as a grown-up. Ask your child to put his feet side by side and see whether one is longer or broader than the other. According to TotalFootandAnkle.com, the majority of people have slightly different lengths of feet and legs.
Understanding the Foot
The foot relies on the ankle and legs to do the work; it’s a package deal. The ankle allows the foot to move up and down, the legs allow the twisting, and the foot works side-to-side to gain balance. The ligaments and tendons that are developing in your child’s feet are working to help absorb shock when they start walking, playing and running. Thanks to this system, when your child’s foot hits the ground to walk, the little bones in the feet are moving into proper alignment. The heel will be straight up and down when they take their first step, and the bones in the ball of the feet will touch the ground next before the toes.
While not fully developed yet, your child’s foot will have 26 bones by the time he's an adult. As long as the foot doesn’t have unusual pressure or confinements, growth occurs. Walking before 18 months of age -- while normal -- can affect the development of the arch because of the pressure on the feet. Pediatricians look at the feet during wellness checks to check for any cause for concern. Heredity also plays a big factor in how the foot and arch will develop.
Feet will develop either a normal arch, high arch or a low arch. Three severity levels of a low arch exist: mild, moderate and flat feet. A true flat foot will mean that not only is the arch not visible but the outer skin on the foot is squished upward. You won’t know which arch your child has until his preschool and early elementary years. If you’ve ever kissed the bottom of your baby’s feet, you might’ve noticed it was nice and soft right in the middle. This fat pad gives their feet extra cushioning but disappears along with some of the baby fat during the toddler years.
The size and shape of any structure, be it bone or soft tissue, is determined by the amount and direction of pressure applied to it. If the structure is allowed to grow normally, it will do so. If abnormal pressure is applied as growth occurs, such as a poorly fitting shoe, the structures will change and grow abnormally. If your toddler’s waddling slightly resembles a pigeon or a penguin, the chances are they’re experiencing in-toeing or out-toeing. Usually the feet aren’t to blame for this; it’s the legs. When children are born, some of their leg bones can be tilted slightly in or out. For the majority of children, this problem self-corrects as they begin running and participating in sports. Some in-toeing is caused by a curvature of the foot, which will need medical attention.