Baby’s Feet-Developmental Stages, Foot Problems and Care

Your baby’s chubby, cute little feet might need a second look. Do they seem similar to your own? Externally, newborns and babies foot are miniature copies of the feet of adults, but appearances shouldn’t be deceptive. Your child’s feet are most probably going through its own developmental process that is unique to their age.


While they might look similar to yours, they are materially distinct and structurally different. The baby’s feet develop in different stages as they find newer ways to move, from slowly wiggling to finally walking without any aid.

Baby Feet – Development and Milestones

There are three primary stages in the development of a baby’s foot. These include –


1. Pre-Walkers and Crawlers

Children who haven’t shown an interest in standing or walking fall into the pre-walker or crawler group. There are many great developments that occur in the first 6 to 10 months as the newborn feet structure starts taking shape. You can expect the baby’s feet to grow by three sizes and then measure half of the length of their eventual adult foot by their first birthday only!

Newborns enter the world with zero bones in their feet and in place, there is spongy cartilage that gradually ossifies into the 26 bones and the 33 joints that eventually comprise an adult foot. The process isn’t complete until the age of 18 but it is during these first months that the babies’ feet are super delicate.


Babies’ feet can sustain certain developmental abnormalities if not taken care of properly. Keep in mind that when taking care of infant’s feet, ill-fitting shoes and socks can place tensions and pressure on the foot. This can eventually impede growth and cause problems that can persist for years. It is always good to check for your baby’s foot size and change their footwear as often as possible. When the shoes are a must, you can opt for soft soles so their little toes can stretch and therefore, strengthen.


2. Cruisers

This is an alternate name for beginner walkers as cruisers can explore the world on their own two feet. Somewhere in between the 8-and 10-month milestones, the baby will try standing on their own. They will use everything from the sofa to your leg and even the family dog to support themselves and there might be a few bumps along the way.


All of the standing and cruising requires a lot of developmental work. It also needs determination from the child as they strengthen and also tone muscles. Their soft cartilage would have hardened and become strong enough to support their weight. You will notice their little feet still lack an arch and this is normal. Children don’t show any signs of this arch until they are 7 years of age.


It is during these early walking days that the baby’s feet make great progress as they undergo a lot of emotional growth too. You must cheer at their successes and soothe them if they fall but don’t stop them from making mistakes. Falling is a way for them to accept their progress. Every time they get up, they toughen up not just physically but from an emotional aspect too. Continue checking for those signs when it’s time for a new shoe sign and always encourage them to explore.


3. Walkers and Toddlers

Your baby makes big strides at this stage. The bones and joints continue to fuse and form as the tendons and muscles start taking up new challenges. Anywhere between the ages of 9 and 17 months, these kids take their first steps. While you think this is a huge range, babies can actually walk from 10 to 12 months but some may take longer. Their feet develop at different paces and many babies walk in their own time.

Your child may end up displaying stances that can include out- and in-toeing, tiptoeing, and bow-leggedness and while these may be abnormal for adults, they are totally fine and common in toddlers and walkers. They are often a consequence of the nine months the baby spent in the womb, which contorted these particular muscles into different positions. Walking can aid in flexing and extending those muscles and will eventually restore their full range of motion.


When Do Babies Find Their Feet?

If you’re wondering when do babies start grabbing their feet, it begins as young as 4 months of age up to 8 months can discover their feet. Babies feel their feet before they can even see them. If they feel them, they try to eat them and this is a great pastime and source of entertainment. Toe tasting can be soothing for the baby. Even if they don’t do it, don’t worry, because not all of them do.

Your baby’s hands aren’t coordinated too but they begin to learn more about the different objects around them. Everything they come across, they will try to explore and also end up putting these items in their mouth, which is why most babies chew their feet once they’ve discovered them. Finding your babies’ feet in hands shouldn’t be a worry, but make sure their feet are clean before.


Common Baby Feet Problems and Solutions

There are a few common baby problems including abnormal feet in babies among others. These include –

1. Clubfoot

Clubfoot involves an array of deformities that can cause your newborn’s feet to end up being twisted, inwards, or pointing down. Babies who have clubfoot end up having the condition in both feet and up to 1 in every 4 babies have this condition. The condition appears nearly twice in boys than girls.


What can be done?

Clubfoot doesn’t normally cause pain in the baby, but it can end up manifesting in long-term problems, including their ability to walk. If it isn’t treated properly with stretching exercises, surgery or casts, the deformity can be corrected within the early childhood stage only.


2. Metatarsus Adductus

This is a common congenital condition of the foot that is seen in about 1% to 2% of all newborns. It is detected generally when the baby’s forefoot and toes are pointed inwards, making it harder to straighten them. The appearance of the baby’s sole resembles a somewhat bean shape.

What can be done? 

Generally, mild cases end up resolving on their own but the more severe cases require splints, casts, and even corrective shoes. Surgery isn’t needed mostly for this condition.

3. Congenital Vertical Talus

The Congenital vertical talus is an uncommon type of a flatfoot type in babies. It is associated with chromosomal or congenital abnormalities. The baby’s foot appearance with the congenital vertical talus resembles a sole that looks like the bottom of a rocking chair.


What can be done? 

To treat vertical talus, a similar sort of treatment to clubfoot must be done, including casts, stretching exercises and if needed, surgery too.


4. Polydactyly

This is a condition where your baby has an extra toe/s but it is fairly common. Around 1 in 1000 babies are born with this condition and it can occur to people with zero family history too.

What can be done? 


The treatment of polydactyly depends on how and where the extra toe/toes are connected. If there is no bone and the toe ends up being poorly formed, you can place a clip to stop the blood flow. The toes which are better formed can be surgically removed once the baby is around a year old, but much before he/she begins to walk.

5. Congenital Curly Toes

Curly toes occur when the baby’s toes end up being rotated abnormally. The toe also remains in a bent position, but the main deformity is the malrotation. It generally occurs in both feet and up to 25% of these cases solve themselves.

What can be done? 

The curly toe deformity treatment involves cutting the tendon right at the bottom of the toe in order to relieve any stress that causes the rotation. But it’s better to wait until your child is around 6 years old, so it can go away on its own, as is the usual case.


6. Overlapping Toes

Overlapping toes can occur when the fifth digit of the baby’s toes crosses right over the fourth toe. It can occur in various degrees and isn’t generally bothersome for most babies.

What can be done?


If it hurts children, then the overlapping toe can cause difficulties in footwear and also some pain. It may need a surgical procedure in order to correct the deformity.

You can take care of the infant’s feet properly if you notice any signs of deformity early on. It’s always advisable to get a few doctors’ opinions before proceeding with surgery of any kind.


Interesting Facts About Baby Feet

Here are a few interesting facts about baby feet –

1. No Arch

The baby’s foot doesn’t have an arch. They instead have a solid pad of fat right in the middle of their foot. The fat disappears in time, and the baby’s arch shape is also visible. The baby might also spend his first year with flat feet.


2. Pliable at Birth

Most of the bones of the foot are pliable, even at birth. The baby’s feet take shape as they grow and they don’t remain flexible for quite a while. The foot bones aren’t well-formed too, up until she’s about 8 years of age.

3. No Need for Shoes

Babies also don’t need to wear shoes. When it comes to infants, barefoot is the best option. The baby’s foot moves around and grows and at this age, the shoes serve just to inhibit growth and movement. If they are walking upright, then don’t bother with shoes for them.

4. Walking Begins When Muscles are Developed

The process of walking begins when the foot muscles get ready, which is why different children begin at different ages. Up until the foot muscles are prepared, it isn’t safe for the baby to walk.

5. Babies’ Feet Require Exercise

The baby’s foot also requires exercise. The baby must move their feet around while lying on their back. You can change their position often so they exercise more than just a few muscles.

6. Doctors Count Your Baby’s Toes

The condition of polydactyly means that there are more than 10 toes present. It is more common than you actually think but it can be corrected with proper surgery.

7. Webbed Toes

Some babies can be born with webbed toes, but this might not be noticeable and present no problems, physically.

8. Clubfoot

Every 1000 births can give rise to an occurrence of clubfoot. Even though it might sound like a popular condition, it can be easily treated.


1. What Should Babies Wear on Their Feet?

You must resist the temptation to place cute little shoes on your little one as it can be restrictive. Work with non-restrictive socks and crib shoes. Even when they are learning to walk, use shoes that are only essential for protection from slippery floors or the outside. Let them walk barefoot at home as it allows the toes to properly grip the floor and balance better overall.

2. Why Do Babies Put Their Feet in the Air?

Babies use their thumb and fingers to pick up objects and instinctively the first objects they can find are their feet. At this age, they explore objects by putting them in the mouth and that is why their feet too, are in the air as they discover these parts of their bodies which might seem new to them.

3. What Does It Mean If My Baby’s Feet Are Cold?

It isn’t a reason to worry if your baby’s feet are cold because it’s just a sign of an immature and developing immune and circulatory system. Once the baby grows a little, the blood can circulate better and ensure their feet remain warm.

4. Should I Worry If My Infant’s Feet Sweat a Lot?

Not really. A few babies can end up sweating more than others as is the case in their feet and hands. Their extremities end up feeling clammy and cool because little beads of sweat can present themselves. As they mature, they can control their temperature regulation and it can happen much less often.

Thus, make sure your baby enjoys this phase of discovering their feet. Once you understand the various foot problems in developmental care and so on, you will be able to identify patterns and make suitable adjustments for the little one.

Also Read: 

Leg Development Stages in Newborns
Physical Development in Babies from Birth till 12 Months
Emotional Developments in Infants

This post was last modified on July 29, 2020 10:55 pm

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