When children first start walking, it's normal for them to walk with their feet apart and their arms stretched out to help them balance.
It's also common for young children to appear bow-legged or knock-kneed, or walk with their toes turned in or out.
Most minor foot problems in children correct themselves, but talk to your GP or health visitor if you're concerned about any of the following conditions.
- Bow legs – before the age of 18 months, it is very common for children have a small gap between their knees and ankles when they stand. If the gap is pronounced or doesn't correct itself, check with your GP or health visitor. This could be a sign of rickets (a bone deformity), although this is very rare.
- Knock knees – this is when a child stands with their knees together and there's a gap between their ankles. Knock knees usually correct themselves by the age of 7.
- In-toeing – also known as pigeon toes. This is where a child's feet turn in. The condition usually corrects itself by the age of 8 and treatment isn't usually needed.
- Out-toeing – this is where the feet point outwards. Again, this usually corrects itself and treatment isn't needed in most cases.
- Flat feet – if your child appears to have flat feet, don't worry. If an arch forms when your child stands on tiptoe, no treatment will normally be needed. Flat feet usually correct themselves by the age of 6.
- Tiptoe walking – it's common for children aged 3 and under to walk on their toes. If you have any concerns, talk to your GP or health visitor.
Choosing first shoes
Under the age of 5, children's feet grow very fast, and it's important that the bones grow straight.
The bones in a baby's toes are soft at birth. If they're cramped by tight shoes or socks, they can't straighten out and grow properly.
Your child won't need proper shoes until they're walking on their own. Even then, shoes can be kept for outside walking only, at least at first. It's important that shoes and socks are the right size.
Shoes with laces, a buckle or a velcro fastening are good because they hold the heel in place and stop the foot slipping forward and damaging the toes. If the heel of a shoe slips off when your child stands on tiptoe, it's too big.
If possible, buy shoes made from natural materials such as leather, cotton or canvas, as these allow air to circulate. Plastic shoes make feet sweaty and can rub and cause fungal infections. Cotton socks are best.
Video: when should my child start wearing shoes? (from 12 months)
In this video, a health visitor discusses at what age your child should start wearing shoes.
Media review due: 20 April 2023
Foot and nail care
After washing your child's feet, dry them well between the toes. When cutting their toenails, cut straight across, otherwise they may get an ingrown toenail.