Toddler foot problems are common and usually cause no pain for your toddler. Most foot problems resolve themselves as your child gets older, with no lasting health concerns. If you think your toddler may have a foot problem, you should contact your doctor to determine the cause and treatment needed.
Clubfoot is a common problem, usually present at birth, in which the foot is twisted in a position at a sharp angle to the ankle. Another issue is flatfeet. Children are born flatfooted and then develop an arch; however, in some children the arch doesn't develop. In-toeing, or pigeon-toes, is another condition in toddlers in which the feet are turned inward. Toe walking is also fairly common in toddlers and is described as walking on the toes or the ball of the foot. Most children outgrow this by the time they are 2 years of age.
According to MayoClinic.com, the cause of all these conditions is unknown. Scientists do not believe clubfoot is a result of the position of the fetus in the uterus, but MayoClinic.com does note that it has been linked with congenital abnormalities of the skeleton, such as spina bifida. Toe walking may be the result of a short Achilles tendon or may simply become a habit. Toe-walking may also be due to autism, cerebral palsy or other muscular, developmental or neurological disorders, notes KidsHealth from Nemours.
Clubfoot symptoms include your toddler's foot being turned downward and inward, with an increase in the arch and an inward turned heel. The foot may look upside-down. Clubfoot does not cause any pain or discomfort. You can look at your child's feet to determine if your child has an arch or has flatfeet and if your child is pigeon-toed. Pigeon-toed children have ankles that appear to turn inward when they begin walking due to the way the feet are planted. Walking on the toes or balls of the feet is the only symptom of toe walking.
Clubfoot complications usually do not come about until your child begins standing and walking. Without treatment, your toddler may end up walking on the balls or the outside of the feet. Although parents usually describe flatfooted children as clumsier than others, KidsHealth from Nemours states that flatfeet or pigeon toes is not a cause for concern and should not affect your child's ability to play sports. Toe walking may increase the risk of your toddler falling and getting hurt.
Clubfoot treatment begins soon after birth, and the goal is to restore the function and look of the foot before the child begins to walk. In most cases, treatment is successful. According to KidsHealth from Nemours, doctors only treat flatfeet if it becomes painful for your toddler and usually do not treat pigeon toes. Pigeon-toed walking usually resolves on its own as your toddler grows into a teen and develops better muscle control. Toe walking treatment can include leg braces, physical therapy and a series of below-the-knee casts. Surgery may be needed as a last resort.