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Sunday, July 27, 2014

One of the most wonderful gifts you can give your child - strong, healthy feet!

Lorraine and Gary, late 1950's NZ
Barefoot until teenagers.
Note the great fashions of the day!
The most common injuries I see are of the lower legs and, more often than not, weak, deformed feet are part of the problem.  One of the things our Mother and Father gave my five siblings and me is strong, flexible feet, by having us go barefoot until our teens.  Having strong feet allows us to participate in demanding physical activity which, in the case of my sister, Lorraine, included the marathon to Olympic standard. I have passed this gift on to my four children.

My first three children, Myra, Mary-Ann and Kelvin
at an athletic meet with running legend, Rod Dixon.
Take close note of their strong, functional feet.
While weak feet can be strengthened, we really should be preventing these problems from the very beginning which means from birth.

A newborn's bones are pliable cartilage that gradually calcifies into hard bone.  They are easily deformed with even the slightest of finger pressure.  If this pressure is more or less constant, the
bones of the feet will calcify and set permanently in the deformed position.  The Japanese once considered tiny feet to be a thing of great beauty and took advantage of the early few years of a female's life to bind her feet, causing the feet to be extremely small and deformed.
Example of Japanese foot binding.
Thankfully, no longer practised.

The modern foot using modern "binding" methods
in the form of women's fashion shoes.
Genetics or environment?  Mother and son - Guess
who had the stretch and grows and tight stockings
and who had the bare feet as a baby?

The modern "Stretch and Grow" clothing, stockings and even the weight of blankets can be sufficient to deform a growing baby's feet.

I have been reminded of the importance of foot care for a baby with the birth of my first grandchild, Braxton, to my daughter, Mary-Ann.  He has unusually long toes!  I immediately wondered how long this would be the case if he continued to wear the stretch and grows he was wearing.  Not long, on close inspection.  So, with the permission of his mother, Braxton agreed to model the solution - cutting off the feet of his stretch and grow.

My daughter, Mary-Ann, with her newborn son, Braxton,
nicely kitted out in his stretch and grow.
Notice how the stretch and grow is deforming Braxton's toes.

My gosh - he has such long toes!
Free at last!  Look at how far up the leg the stretch and grow has
retracted now the feet have been cut out.

What was most apparent upon doing so was how far the altered garment rode up his legs.  It was obviously too short in the first place.  The second thing of note was how Braxton began to stretch out his feet and toes.  He obviously liked the freedom!

I used to take my children out for walks in the buggy when they were little, their little feet sometimes poking out from under their warm blankets.  Mothers would come up to us and comment how cute she was and then, inevitably, touch her toes and say to them - not me - "Oh dear, you poor wee thing, your feet are sooo cold!"  I just ignored these constant comments.

Babies are actually well adapted to survive cold and not so good at handling heat.  In fact, one of the possible causes of cot death is overheating the baby by smothering it in clothing, blankets and and over-heating the room.  Babies come with a generous layer of subcutaneous fat that is excellent insulation.  While the skin may feel quite cold, Braxton's core temperature will remain a healthy 37-38 Degrees Celsius. If you are ever unsure about this you can always take your baby's core temperature with a thermometer.

As with adults, the legs,feet, arms and hands act as the body's radiators with warm arterial blood flow to them regulated to maintain a warm core temperature.  To help baby maintain a healthy core temperature my advice is to keep his body and head well covered in cold weather while keeping the feet and hands relatively free of insulation - of course, there is a time and place for gloves and toasty booties!  Incidentally, as I am writing this it would not be more than a chilly 10 degrees in this room.  My feet are bare; but I have three layers of warm clothing on my body and a hat.  My core temperature is assured.

In normal conditions, the hands, feet and exposed
skin are several degrees cooler than the central
core.  Temperature of the extremities varies
depending on the flow of warm arterial blood
to them.  The warmer the core, the greater the
arterial flow to the extremities.

(Illustration: Hypothermia in Sport booklet.
Published by ACC 1984.
Author: Gary Moller)

As your child grows up and begins to walk and run, give them every opportunity to go barefoot.  Allow them to get mud between their toes.  Allow them to be grounded to Mother Earth!

They will thank you over and over again later in life, so go for it and cut the feet out of all of those stretch and grows!

One contented baby and one
happy mother!

About this website 
The advice in these articles is given freely without promise or obligation. Its all about giving you and your family the tools and information to take control of your health and fitness.
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