Similar to adults – kids feet come in all shapes and sizes. But unlike their parents most kids are changing quickly with every year that passes, so the expected shape, flexibility, reflexes, strength and function of their feet, ankles and knees are assessed & judged very differently depending on their age.
Pregnancy, birthing & development history
Complications or irregularities during pregnancy (eg. fetal positioning) and especially birthing (eg. breach, early/late delivery, birth weight) can be linked to certain developmental delays or conditions affecting the feet. This is to be noted in when & how children hit their milestones (eg. crawling, walking, talking), and testing their current level by performing appropriate activities (eg. hopping, jumping).
Skin & nails check (dermatology)
General dermal checks help establish a baseline of any skin conditions (eg. warts, tinea vs. eczema vs. psoriasis) and nail conditions (eg. ingrown nails) a child might have or need to monitor as they grow (eg. moles). General measurements and picture records can be useful for tracking growth & change.
Footwear Assessment (school, sport & casual)
Shoes are possibly the most common cause (and solution!) to anyone’s foot problems, but are still often overlooked or misunderstood by parents. While some children are mis-fit into siblings old shoes or larger shoes waiting to ‘grow into’, many are well sized but the features (shape, flexibility, fixation) don’t match the child’s stage of development.
Foot Posture & Shape Evaluation
A child’s arch generally develops some time in their first 10 years, but often aren’t assessed until a problem occurs after this stage. The same goes for the general shape of the feet & ankles (eg. angle of toes or heels) and it is important to check for any notable deformities which are best managed early on while the body is still growing.
Joint Flexibility & Muscle Testing
Children are naturally higher in flexibility, however this should reduce at a certain rate to varying levels. Excessive flexibility (hypermobility) and lack of flexibility (restricted range-of-motion) can both have their effects on health and should be ruled out via hands-on movement through each joint’s ideal range. The same goes for the strength of the major muscles in the feet & ankles.
Walking style analysis (aka. Gait)
Childrens walking style can be affected by their age/stage-of-development, genetic factors, and foot conditions (eg. the previously mentioned toe walking or in-toeing). Observing a child’s ‘gait’ is vital to screening out major foot-related conditions and managing their future foot health.
Different tests are performed to check for reflex development between babies, toddlers, adolescents & teenagers. Child responses to these reflex-based test can indicate potential brain/neurological or muscular conditions which may need deeper investigation.