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Why Do My Child’s Feet Hurt?

by | Aug 26, 2020 | Pediatrics

As much as we expect young feet to not experience many problems, child foot pain – and especially heel pain – are still common. Your child’s feet can experience many of the same conditions that adult feet do, including Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and flat feet. And children are also susceptible to conditions unique to their stage of life, too.

Whatever the cause of your child’s foot pain might be, however, it is important to have it diagnosed and treated sooner rather than later. While many causes of persistent foot or heel pain are not emergencies, they can still cause lasting problems if they are ignored.

We are always here to provide care for your child (and the rest of your family, too!). Never hesitate to contact us whenever you have any foot or ankle concerns, big or small.

child's feet hurt

What Could Be Causing Child Foot Pain?

As it is with adults, most instances of heel pain in children are from overuse. In other words, something has excessively strained part of the foot, resulting in aggravation and pain.

If your child is quite active, it may be a matter of them overexerting themselves. This can happen either all at once (e.g. your child taking off into a full spring when their body was not prepared for it), or cumulatively with the repetitive impacts of certain motions over time (e.g. engaging in a long-distance running program without providing enough time in the training schedule for rest and recovery).

However, activity is not the only factor that can place excess stress on the feet. Abnormalities in foot structure itself can shift the way weight is distributed across your feet while you stand and move. This can have a significant influence on overloading and injuring certain areas.

Children’s feet are constantly growing and developing (as the shoe-buying part of your budget may have noticed), and structural abnormalities such as flat feet can become more prominent and influential as they do. Similarly, the process of growing itself can sometimes create opportunities for pain. 

Common Foot Pain Conditions for Children

There are many different potential causes of foot and heel pain, whether you are a child or an adult. That is why a thorough evaluation is so important. Not all causes of pain respond to the same treatments, and it is important to know exactly what we’re dealing with before we can recommend the best plan for your child.

Here are a few of the more common cases we see in our younger patients. By no means is this a complete list, though:

Sever’s Disease (Calcaneal Apophysitis)

Around the ages of 8-14, the heel bone can begin rapidly growing and developing in preparation for adulthood. The area where this growth occurs, called the growth plate, can become more sensitive and susceptible to inflammation – especially when enduring repetitive impacts and excessive stress from connected tissues that haven’t yet caught up with the heel’s growth.

Sever’s disease is more common in active children, but is not unheard of in those who are less athletic.

Achilles Tendinitis

This condition is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. It typically presents itself as a pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, or just above it. The pain might start off relatively light, but increase with activity. 

Achilles tendinitis is more likely to develop in children who have just started to increase their levels of physical activity, such as starting a sports season. It is also more common in children with tight calf muscles, as they place more tension on the Achilles tendon.

Flat Feet

Children are most often born without arches. As the foot grows, the arches develop naturally – usually by around the age of 6. For some children, however, the arches never fully appear and the feet press more flatly against the ground while walking.

Having flat feet increases the risk of developing pain, but is not always a guarantee that any discomfort will occur. A number of people go about their lives with flat feet and experience no negative symptoms whatsoever. The majority of these cases do not require treatment, but it remains important to keep track of a growing child’s flatfoot condition to ensure it doesn’t lead to any problems.

child foot pain

Providing the Foot Care Your Child Needs

When treating any source of heel or foot pain, we want to ensure that not only is discomfort relieved, but any factors that led to the problem in the first place are addressed. If they aren’t, the same problem is likely to occur again in the future.

We have a variety of treatment options to match the specific conditions, factors, and needs of all of our patients, at any age. Our goal is always to treat each condition with effective conservative methods whenever possible, and most instances of heel pain can be resolved with exactly that.

Potential aspects of a conservative treatment plan may include, but are not limited to:

  • Standard rest and icing to allow for recovery.
  • Use of custom orthotics to offload excess pressure from vulnerable areas.
  • Changes to footwear (especially valuable if a child’s current shoes are ill-fitting).
  • Stretches and exercises aimed at strengthening and conditioning specific areas of the foot and ankle.
  • Laser therapy to accelerate pain relief and healing of soft tissue injuries.

In rare circumstances, conservative treatments might not yield the results we need. Only then will surgery become a consideration. 

Addressing sources of pain and trouble early can help ensure your children’s feet grow into a healthy and comfortable future! Never hesitate to give us a call at (541) 673-0742 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online contact form if you prefer to reach out to us electronically instead.