Pain in a child’s foot or ankle is never normal. There is no such thing as “growing pains.” Any pain that lasts more than a few days, or that is severe enough to limit the child’s walking, should be evaluated by a podiatrist or a podo-paediatric specialist.
Five signs which may indicate your child has a foot problem
1. Your Kids Can’t Keep Up with Their Peers
If children lag behind in sports or backyard play, it may be because their feet or legs are tired. Fatigue is common when children have flat feet. The muscles in the feet and legs tire easily because the feet are not functioning as well as they should.
2. Children Voluntarily Withdraw from Activities they Usually Enjoy
If they are reluctant to participate, it may be due to heel pain — a problem often seen in children between the ages of 8 and 14. Repetitive stress from sports may cause muscle strain and inflammation of the growth plate, a weak area at the back of a child’s heel.
3. They Don’t Want to Show You Their Feet
Children may feel pain or notice a change in the appearance of their feet or nails but don’t tell their parents because they fear a trip to the doctor’s office. Surgeons encourage parents to make a habit of inspecting their child’s feet starting at a young age. Look for any changes such as calluses, growths, skin discoloration, or redness and swelling around the toenails.
4. Your Child Often Trips and Falls
Repeated clumsiness may be a sign of in-toeing, balance problems or neuromuscular conditions.
5. The Child Complains of Pain
It is never normal for a child to have foot pain. Injuries may seem minor, but if pain or swelling last more than a few days, have your child’s foot examined.
A child with any of these signs or symptoms should be promptly examined by a foot and ankle surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Foot problems commonly experienced by children
Most children with flat feet have no symptoms. However, sometimes they may have trouble participating in physical activities or sports, or appear to walk or run awkwardly. Some complain of pain or cramping in their feet, legs or knees. Any pain or difficulty with a child’s feet should be evaluated.
Calcaneal Apophysitis (Sever's Disease)
Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel’s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop.
Tight shoes or socks, or incorrect nail trimming are the most common cause of ingrown toenails in children, although sometimes the tendency for nails to curve inward is inherited. When the nail breaks the skin, serious infections can result. Parents should never try to dig the nail out at home; treatment by a podiatrist is advised.
Plantar Wart (Verruca Pedis)
Warts can develop anywhere on the foot, but typically they appear on the bottom (plantar side) of the foot. Plantar warts, which are caused by the human papilloma virus, the same virus that causes warts on other parts of the body, commonly occur in children and adolescents. These warts grow deep into the skin, and can make walking or standing painful.
3 tips on correct footwear for children
Before you head to a footwear shop to buy your kids shoes, follow these helpful guidelines to prevent or minimize foot problems from poorly fitting or worn out shoes.
1. Shoes should fit
Your child’s feet can grow up to two sizes in six months, so you need to account for growth when buying shoes. That doesn’t mean you should buy shoes that are too big—oversized shoes cause the foot to slide forward, putting excessive pressure on the toes. A good fit is about a finger's width from the end of the shoe to the tip of the big toe.
Tight shoes can cause blisters, corns and calluses on your child’s toes, blisters on the back of the heels or worse, ingrown nails, which can become infected. Signs of infection from ingrown nails include pain, redness or fluid draining from the area. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a foot and ankle surgeon, who can perform a simple, safe in-office procedure to remove the nail.
2. Shoes wear out
Shoes lose their shock absorption over time, so inspect new and old shoes for proper cushioning and arch support. Replace any shoes with wear and tear around the edges of the sole. When buying shoes, check to see that the toe box flexes easily and the shoe doesn’t bend in the middle of the sole.
Worn-out shoes elevate the risk for heel pain, Achilles tendonitis and even ankle sprains and stress fractures.
3. Children with flat feet
Children with flat feet need shoes with a wide toe box, maximum arch support and shock absorption. The best shoes to buy are oxford, lace-up shoes that have enough depth for an orthotic insert, if necessary.