Sharing our publications with parents

feet

We have recently published an article about the development of feet as children learn to walk.  This was a literature review which means it is a summary of all the existing information that has been published.

What did we do?

When we decide to research a topic one of the first stages is to consider what knowledge already exists. This includes what the studies aims were, how they gathered information, how many people took part, how they analysed data and what the outcomes were. Our paper reviewed the existing research looking at what children’s feet must adapt to when they start to learn to crawl, stand and walk.

What did we find?

Our research means understanding more about how infants start to move – how fast they move, how many steps they take, how wide their feet are placed and how long each step is. This sort of information is quite readily available in new walkers and more experienced walkers as it is collected by psychologists, movement control scientists and more. It is also quite easy to capture with video and other more commonly available equipment. Work that has been published shows us that infants who have just started to walk most commonly only take a few steps, and this increases with experience. We can see that infant walking is quite variable – their feet are positioned at different distances apart at each step. This variability reduces as children become more experienced at walking.

The load that is put on the sole of the foot is measured with a platform in the floor which measures pressure. This is more expensive and less available than video, so we find less information relating to this. When children start walking, they put their feet down flat rather than the heel hitting the ground first. It takes nearly a year of walking for the heel contact to become the first part of the foot which hits the floor. From the first steps there is a development of the arch in the foot which means that less pressure is felt under this area of the foot and more of the weight is supported on the outside border of the foot.

We also study movement in infants. One of the main joints in the leg which shows different patterns to more mature walking is the ankle. The movements of the ankle are different when they put their foot on the floor, and when their foot is in the air during walking. Some of this can be explained by the muscles of the leg working at the same time and in a random pattern, making the motion hard to control compared to a more experienced walker.

What does it mean for parents?

  1. Infants who have just started to walk don’t walk far and only take a few steps at a time.
  2. They put their feet down flat rather than the heel hitting the ground first. It takes nearly a year of walking for the heel contact to become the first part of the foot which hits the floor.
  3. The variability of their walking is high, and this reduces as they practice and get better at controlling their muscles and their joints.  

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