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Martin Foot & Ankle

No Spring Break for Children’s Foot Care

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It’s that time of year again! Depending on how old your kids are and what schools they go to, spring break might have just ended or is just over the horizon. Or maybe you’re enjoying it right now! (Or at least your kids are …)

But while a well-earned (and mercifully temporary) break from academic pursuits can be healthy and energizing for a young mind, there should be no rest when it comes to foot care! Kids should learn how to take care of their feet and prevent common infections and injuries—with their parents keeping a watchful eye when necessary.

Here are some of the most important ways you can ensure your children’s feet remain as happy and healthy as possible.

Young healthy feet!

Daily Hygiene

Keeping feet (and the environments they “live” in) clean is an important daily discipline for people of all ages. But with kids it’s even more important, for two reasons. First, childhood immune systems typically aren’t as robust and can’t fend off infections as well as adult ones. Second, if you don’t develop these habits in childhood, it’s that much harder to do it later!

  • Feet should be washed thoroughly every day. Unfortunately, they tend to get relatively ignored at shower time—one quick pass of the soap might be all the attention they get. Make sure your child knows that it’s important to clean their entire foot, including the tops, bottoms, sides, and between the toes.

  • Feet should be dried thoroughly after bathing. Retained moisture (particularly between the toes) can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

  • Never let a child wear dirty or waterlogged socks or shoes. Damp socks should always be switched out, even if that means changing socks more than once per day. Kids should also ideally have an “extra” pair of regular shoes so they can switch them out every other day. (That 24+ hour dry time really helps keep infections at bay.

  • Don’t let your kids go barefoot in public spaces—playgrounds, locker rooms, pool decks, etc. This makes them more likely to contract a skin infection such as athlete’s foot or warts.

Toenail Care

Toenail trimming is another oft-overlooked aspect of proper foot care. A lot of kids will wait until the toenails get so long that they’re starting to feel really uncomfortable in their shoes—or until an adult takes one good look at their feet and says, “go trim those things!”

Unfortunately, this increases their risk of ingrown toenails or even infections, which can be quite painful to deal with.

Teach your kids to:

  • Only cut the nails when they’re dry.

  • Use a pair of toenail clippers, since they are less curved and have more leverage for thick toenails than a fingernail clippers.

  • Cut their toenails fairly straight across with only a little bit of rounding at the corners.

  • Don’t cut the nails too short …

  • … but also don’t let them get too long! Because nails grow so slowly, once per month is likely an appropriate rate for trimming. It might be easier for you and your child to remember to trim on time if they always trim them on the same date each month.

Children's Foot Care

Shoes and Socks

We already mentioned that your child should probably have a couple pairs of regular shoes that they can rotate, and that they change socks and shoes if they get damp. Here are a few other tips.

  • Kids feet grow “super fast.” (That’s the technical term, we think.) It’s not unusual for them to grow three or four sizes in a single year, right up through their teens. So you have to get used to the idea that you might need to get them new shoes every couple of months, even if their old ones are still in pretty good shape.

  • Seriously, don’t try to get an extra month of use out of a shoe that gets too small. And don’t cheat in the other direction and buy them shoes that are obviously too big at first. We know it’s frustrating, but having shoes that are the right size is really important for avoiding injury and maintaining healthy biomechanics.

  • More bad news: we recommend you avoid hand-me-downs and used shoes. They can cause discomfort and even blisters, since they may have already “molded” to conform to the previous owner’s unique foot shape. (They’re also a great way to spread a fungal infection.)

  • If your child plays a sport, get them footwear specifically designed for that sport—running shoes, basketball shoes, football cleats, soccer cleats, etc. Using improper athletic footwear not only reduces performance, but increases the risk of injury.

If You See Something, Do Something

If your child is experiencing foot pain that reduces their quality of life and prevents them from running and playing, please don’t expect them to “walk it off” or wait to see if it improves on its own. Pain that impacts activity is never normal, and should be evaluated and treated by a professional.

At Martin Foot & Ankle, our experienced and caring pediatric foot specialists delight in providing exceptional treatment to children of all ages. We keep up-to-date with the latest research and techniques, and we work hard to make every appointment a pleasant experience for both kids and their parents. Give us a call today at (717) 757-3537 to schedule at one of our convenient locations.
Dr. Keith F. Tyson
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