7 Foot Conditions to Look for in Children
Recognizing foot pain in children can be tricky for parents because children may not recognize the symptoms of a problem or be able to express to parents that there is a problem. Additionally, as kids grow, some conditions correct themselves without treatment. Others become more severe because of other medical conditions. A child’s foot pain should not be disregarded as “growing pains.” Pain is a sign that there is a problem that needs to be addressed by a podiatrist. So how do you, as a parent, know what to look for?
Here are some of the most common foot conditions seen in children:
Digital deformities in children rarely resolve themselves, and they often grow worse over time without treatment. Symptoms rarely show until the children are more mature, but parents may notice misshapen or misaligned toes. Some common deformities include overlapping and underlapping toes, hammer toes and mallet toes. As children grow older, the deformed toes may become stiff and immobile.
Sudden pain in the heel of a child’s or adolescent’s foot is usually related to inflammation or injury to the growth plate in the heel bone. This condition is called Sever’s disease. It is most common in athletes ages 8-14 and tends to be more troublesome for males. Fortunately, Sever’s Disease is self-limiting and responds well to conservative treatment.
As your child reaches puberty, their feet will be one of the first parts of the body to grow. The bones develop faster than their muscles, so if the foot gets stressed, the tendon connected to the heel can get stressed and inflamed. These tendons and bones should be properly synced up by the time they reach 14 or 15 years old. Children who are active or play sports are at greater risk for this condition as they might put a high amount of stress on their heel. A child with Sever’s heel may walk with a limp and will probably complain about heel pain. If your child has this condition, cut back on their activity and encourage calf stretches. If the problem persists, you should take them to a foot doctor.
Achilles tendonitis – inflammation of the tendon at the back of the heel. Achilles tendonitis can actually be a contributing factor to Sever’s disease if the inflamed tendon pulls too hard on the growth plate of the heel bone.
You are considered to have flat feet when the arches of your feet collapse to the ground when you stand. Parents often first notice this because their child has what they describe as “weak ankles” (which appear to turn inward because of the way the feet are planted). Most babies are born with flat feet and develop arches as they grow. However, flat feet don’t always develop later in life. This condition is hereditary and can be passed on to your children. Fortunately, it is typically not a serious condition that will cause them any problems beyond some minor discomfort. A solution to making their feet more comfortable is to put supportive arches in their footwear. If the pain persists or is severe, you should visit a podiatrist as it may be something more serious.
You may notice your young child walking on their toes more often than on the flats of their feet. Your child may frequently toe walk up until they are five years old. Toe walking is generally not a problem, but simply your child’s way of stretching and developing their feet. However, if they toe walk persistently, it doesn’t hurt to visit a podiatrist. On rare occasions, toe walking may be the symptom of other conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy or a shortened Achilles tendon.
These symptoms in your children or infants, as well as back or hip pain, could be signs that your child has a medical problem. If your child has a foot problem or their foot doesn’t seem to be developing normally, it’s important for you to visit a podiatrist. Don’t shrug it off as something that will pass as they grow. If their foot problems can be treated while they are young, it may prevent bigger problems later on in life.