Activity and Better Foot Arch Formation in Children
I recently read a report in the Wall Street Journal regarding a study released from a group of researchers in Poland regarding the effect of judo on the feet of children. The study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. The study looked at 29 boys enrolled in Judo. The classes were 90-minutes long. The classes happened three times per week. A second group of boys was studied. These 29 boys did not participate in any physical activity outside of school. The average age of the boys was 11.5 years. The body types (size and height) were similar as well. The scientists discovered that the boys practicing Judo had better arches in their feet than the boys that were inactive. The arch height was measured in the feet while sitting and standing.
In addition, the boys that engaged in Judo had better balance. The two groups of boys were asked to perform the “flamingo test”. This test requires the boy to stand on one leg on a strip of wood and hold the other leg bent at the knee. The boys that practiced Judo and had the better arches were able to hold the flamingo position for 4.7 to 125.1 seconds. The other boys could only do it for 1.2 to 27.3 seconds. This is a fairly large difference. The balance was likely not simply due to the Judo practice itself but also to a better foot. The arch allows the foot to function biomechanically as a tripod and the muscles of the foot and leg are all in a good position to provide better balance.
The structure of the foot is essentially formed by the age of two. Most children are flat-footed initially with the arch developing by age 6. The foot consists of 26 bones that initially are cartilage. When the cartilage has turned to bone is around when the arch should be finished forming; this is around age 5 or 6. The foot will grow an average of 12 sizes during the first three years of life. The child’s foot should be measured every 3 or 4 months to ensure that his or her shoes fit properly. If a toddler’s shoes are too tight, the foot will not develop properly. Most adult foot problems may be traced to childhood development and the shoes matter. It is important to select high-quality shoes with good fit and good shock absorption to allow your child’s foot its best chance at proper growth.
As the Judo study has demonstrated, activity is important and an integral component in the development of a good and functional foot. In order to help prevent future problems for the child’s foot, he or she should engage in a lot of physical activity in the right shoes.