With the rate of childhood obesity in the United States on the rise, health experts are continually reminding parents to encourage their children to participate in sports and other physical activities. But what happens when the very activity you believe will keep your child healthy seems to cause them pain? When a normally rambunctious child, suddenly begins to prefer quiet, indoor activities, and makes up excuses not to go outside an observant parent knows that something is up. Often that something is heel or arch pain.
Causes of Heel and Arch Pain in Children
Heel pain is particularly common in children between the ages of 8 and 14, when kids become confident enough to engage in more rough and tumble outdoor activities. High impact sports like soccer, basketball, and track and field can strain still developing foot bones and muscles. Often the cause of heel pain in children is Sever’s Disease, but it can also be caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and hairline fractures.
The foot condition that is most frequently accompanied by arch pain is over-pronation where the foot and ankles tilt in, making the arches work harder to maintain balance and absorb motion impact. Flat feet or fallen arches is another condition that can cause arch pain. Be advised that flat feet are not, in and of themselves, a cause for concern. Flat feet are frequently observed in young children who typically grow out of the condition before age 5. It is older children with flat feet who frequently experience arch and ball of foot pain.
Both heel and arch pain can also be caused by wearing poorly made shoes that do not have the proper support in the insole and footbed.
Symptoms of Heel Pain and Arch Pain in Kids
Older children may simply tell you that their feet hurt. Heel pain is felt behind or beneath the heel. Arch pain is felt in the middle of the foot. For younger children the clues that they are experiencing foot pain may be as subtle as an abnormal reluctance to participate in their favorite outdoor activities. A parent may notice that a child is walking on their toes or limping when the heel pain is severe.
No More Pain in Little Feet – Heel and Arch Pain Treatment
Children’s arch supports work well for children with pronation problems and flat feet because they correct the bio-mechanics of the child’s walking and running gait, making it easier for the foot to absorb shock without painful stress to the muscles and joints. Children’s arch supports can often be used to prevent arch pain in young athletes.
Children’s heel cushions are usually recommended for children with Sever’s disease or other foot conditions that make the heel tender to decrease pain and prevent further injury.
Get a Podiatrist’s Opinion
When a child is experiencing chronic foot pain it is important to consult a podiatrist in order to determine the extent of the foot injury. Some foot conditions can be treated with orthotics only and require little interruption in the child’s usual recreational activities. Other foot conditions are more serious and will require rest, icing, and occasionally even immobilization and surgery. It is best to have a professional examine your child’s foot and provide you with an official diagnosis.
For more information on children’s heel pain, read the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeon’s online article on pediatric heel pain.
For more information about fallen arches in children, read the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons article on flexible flat foot.