Children’s foot care

Early years

Children are usually born with perfect feet but they are vulnerable to deformity particularly while soft cartilage is forming into bone.  If young feet are looked after they should stay fit and healthy throughout life.  A child’s foot is not a smaller replica of an adult’s foot and has a number of distinguishing features:

  • The foot is widest across the toes
  • It is softer and more pliable
  • It is rounder and plumper
  • It is narrowest at the heel

Children develop at different rates.  As a guide, children will start to crawl from about 9 months old and walk from about 11 months old.  Between 10-18 months old, many children will be taking their first steps.  At this time they will often appear to have bow legs, with feet spread wide apart and a characteristic wobble when they walk.  You should always let your child develop walking skills and confidence at their own pace and if you have any concerns ask your health visitor.

The podiatry department does not offer a service specifically for children but for more information check our eligibility criteria.

Footwear and shoe fitting

Children should not wear shoes at all until they can walk, so avoid pram shoes.  For babies, avoid tightly wrapped blankets that prevent kicking and leg movement and avoid baby-grows (unless you cut the foot out).

Walking bare foot, where it is safe, is good for feet.  Children’s feet are vulnerable to deformity from any ill-fitting footwear/hosiery until the bones are completely formed at about 18 years of age.  Fitted socks made from natural materials are much better than stretch-fit socks.

When buying shoes go to a reputable shop (see Children’s Foot Health Register) where feet are measured and shoes fitted correctly.  Good shoe shops will always measure feet periodically to check fit, so don’t be afraid to ask.  Good shoes are an investment so try to avoid buying second hand shoes.

The shape of the shoe and especially the toe area should be wide and round allowing for toes to move and spread.

It is also important for the shoe to have a lace or a buckle, without this the child’s toes will claw to hold the shoe on.  The heel of the shoe should not be too high, as high heels can also result in foot deformity.


Children’s toenails will grow like adults and should be cut regularly.  They should be cut straight across and not too short in order to avoid ingrowing toe nails.

For more information on nail care see our adult section.

Page last reviewed: 9 October, 2023