It’s well known that growth spurts are a major part of people’s teenage years, but are you also aware that one of the first areas to be affected during this period of intense change is the feet? As the BBC Science website explains, an ‘outside-in’ rule applies to adolescence, i.e. the extremities grow and develop before the rest of the body. Your son or daughter rapidly going up a shoe size could be an early indication that he or she is growing up.
Adolescence is a hugely important time for foot care, not least because any problems young people experience with their fast-growing feet may have a considerable impact on their adult lives, if left untreated. However, teenagers have so much on their minds these days – everything from cramming for exams to building up a following on social media – that looking after their feet is unlikely to be particularly high on their list of priorities.
That’s why it’s a good idea for parents to step in and help teenage children to protect their foot health. If you’re unsure where to begin, read on to familiarise yourself with issues associated with teenagers’ feet and what you can do about them.
Adolescence Puts New Pressures on Feet
Several developmental and lifestyle factors can lead to foot problems among young people.
Growth Spurts Affect Gait
The body’s growth plates, which produce new bone tissue, are hard at work much of the time during adolescence; they don’t stop until around the age of 15. Physical changes, such as the feet getting bigger, sometimes happen so quickly that the brain initially struggles to adapt to them. A teenager’s gait can easily suffer as a result – it might look somewhat clumsy or irregular.
If your son or daughter develops an unusual walking style or starts limping, our London podiatry team is on hand to conduct a detailed biomechanical assessment, including gait analysis. We have the expertise to diagnose and treat adolescent gait-related problems.
Feet Become Sweatier and Smelly
Puberty makes sweat glands more active, and as there are approximately a quarter of a million of them on a pair of feet, teenagers often develop foot odour problems. Smelly feet are unpleasant at any age but can be acutely embarrassing for self-conscious young people. Feet should be washed thoroughly every day to stop sweat lingering. Merino wool hosiery is ideal, as it draws sweat away from skin.
Foot odour can often be eradicated at home, but if it persists don’t hesitate to visit our podiatrists.
Poor Footwear Choices Compromise Foot Health
Fashion-conscious teenage girls may be tempted to prioritise style over comfort, without considering what happens to their feet in high heels. Stilettoes and similar styles force feet to assume unnatural positions, increasing the wearers’ risk of developing numerous foot problems, from painful ingrown toenails to deformities. So it’s vital that teenage children, whose feet are at a crucial stage of development, limit the time they spend in high heels (or ideally ditch them altogether) and see a podiatrist about any foot problems their shoes cause.
Teenagers who kick about in the same pair of sneakers or ballet pumps on most days may also run into problems. Their feet are trapped in the warm, damp environment in which athlete’s foot thrives, potentially leaving them with intensely itchy, scaly skin that’s in need of podiatric treatment. Moreover, unsupportive thin-soled or worn-out shoes can cause foot pain, so encourage your son or daughter to choose well-cushioned footwear instead.
Physical Activity Triggers Foot Pain
Skateboarding, rollerblading, gymnastics, martial arts, basketball, cycling and more – sporty teenagers have no shortage of activities to choose from. However, if their arches aren’t as strong and springy as they should be by this stage, they may suffer from arch and heel pain. In fact, a survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that a staggering six out of ten teens experience painful feet, usually due to physical activity.
The good news is that with the help of a podiatrist, teenagers can stop weak arches or flat feet holding them back. For example, our custom-made shoe inserts, known as orthotics, can relieve pain, provide excellent support and improve foot function.
Feet By Pody’s London podiatrists provide expert foot care for teenagers. Please call us on 0207 099 6657 today or book an appointment online.