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Thinking about feet….

8th March 2021

In support of National Feet Week (#NFW 8-14 March 2021), a Voices blog by Stewart C. Morrison PhD SFHEA on how health visitors can support parents to think about their children’s feet with the publication of 2 new Good Practice Points. Stewart is a Reader in Children’s Podiatry and course lead for the BSc (Hons) Podiatry programme within the School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton. Stewart’s primary research interest is child health, with a particular interest in the manifestation, impact and management of musculoskeletal foot and ankle problems in children.

Stewart C. Morrison PhD SFHEA , Reader, School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton

Does my child have flatfeet?  When should they start wearing shoes? What type of shoes do they need?  Is my child walking normally?

These are just some of the questions that parents ask as their child begins to stand, walk, and explore their new world. Learning to walk is a significant milestone for families and one that draws greater attention to the feet. With this, it is not long before parents begin thinking about footwear purchases and are navigating the complex maze of footwear advice, guidance and recommendations.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the development of children’s feet but, as parents have told us, health visitors are one of the first health professionals that parents encounter and ask for advice. Whilst we know that children’s feet should follow a typical pattern of development, these changes are often poorly understood by both parents and health professionals, and this uncertainty can lead to anxiety and, in some instances, unnecessary referrals into healthcare services.

It is no surprise that, at times of change and new experiences, parents seek support from their physical and online communities. In recent years we have seen considerable growth in online information seeking and sharing. With this, there is growing concern about the quality (and volume) of information found online. Some our recent work has been exploring the information about children’s feet that parents find online and there is a clear need for more consistent footcare and footwear advice.

Health visitors have an important role in helping parents to navigate this information and, to support you in practice, the Institute of Health Visiting has produced two Good Practice Points.  The first is an overview of foot development in infancy and early childhood and highlights some of the common concerns that you are likely to encounter.  The second is an overview of walking development in infancy and early childhood.

Stewart C. Morrison PhD SFHEA , Reader, School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton