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Common Causes of Foot Pain in Children

Foot pain doesn’t just impact the older population. In fact, it is relatively common for children to experience foot pain that can be linked to a more active lifestyle, genetics, or injury. While it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your child’s foot pain, know that it could be linked to a severe issue.  If your child is complaining about foot pain, you should absolutely bring it up with their doctor as various treatment options can bring relief.

Here, we will discuss some of the most common causes of foot pain in children, as well as a brief overview of potential treatments. Of course, you should never self-diagnose foot pain and should consult a doctor right away if your child expresses discomfort in their feet or ankles. Early detection is often the key to correctly diagnosing and treating any medical concern.

Growing Pains

The most benign reason that a child may experience foot pain comes down to the simple process of growing up. As we grow, our muscles go through a significant amount of rapid change leading to some cramping and discomfort. If your child’s pain is consistent, you should discuss it with your doctor to rule out any other medical concerns.

Treatment Options

Growing pains are best managed through rest, hot or cold compresses, and sometimes a foot soak for instant relief. Massaging and exercising may also ward off cramping and provide relief to stiff or painful muscles and joints.

Sever’s Disease

Sever’s Disease is a type of bone injury that occurs when the growth plate located in the back of the heel becomes inflamed. This type of foot pain can be common in children, especially in ages 8-14, because the bone is still forming and is at higher risk of becoming strained or inflamed during strenuous exercise or activity.

Treatment Options

Typically, the condition improves after a few months of rest and relaxation but can take longer depending on its severity. Your doctor may recommend taking a break from certain activities or sports to allow the foot to heal completely. Other treatments may include taking anti-inflammatory medications to relieve symptoms and stretching the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

Fallen Arches

Fallen arches, or flat feet, is when a person’s arches are incredibly low or not visually apparent at all. While the impacts of fallen arches may not be felt for several years, teens may start to experience some of the issues that come with inadequately supported feet, such as pain and discomfort.

Treatment Options

Of course, wearing quality shoes with arch supports is imperative for people who struggle with fallen arches. Proper exercise and flexibility training can also help relieve some of the symptoms associated with the condition.

Improper Shoes

Footwear is critical when it comes to proper feet and ankle health. Wearing shoes that fit well are essential for everybody, but especially a child’s growing foot. It’s important that children wear appropriate shoes for the activity they are doing and that the shoe is not too big or too small.

Treatment Options

Wearing improper shoes can lead to a host of issues with your feet, including pain and higher risk for other conditions. Ensure your child has shoes that fit them appropriately. If you are unsure, have their feet measured by a professional to identify their exact shoe size.

Bunions

People may more commonly expect bunions on adult feet, but children can get them too. If your child regularly uses the arch portion of their foot, then a bump may appear at the base of their toe that will protrude out the other side of their foot. Some children may develop bunions due to the type of shoes they wear or deformities they are born with.

Treatment Options

Over-the-counter bunion pads or medications can help relieve symptoms. Other people prefer shoe inserts that you can wear during regular activities to relieve some of the pain and pressure that bunions cause. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Bursitis

Around the joint is a small fluid-filled sac known as the bursa that easily helps the tissue around the joint slide over one another. However, when the joint is overused or injured, then the pain and swelling in the bursa may occur. This condition is known as bursitis. Children may experience bursitis due to an injury during activity or because they overwork their joints as they do specific movements.

Treatment Options

Sometimes, the treatment for bursitis can be as simple as avoiding activity that caused the injury. In other cases, children need to be taught how to properly perform certain movements. To prevent the recurrence of bursitis, your child may need to do regular stretching. At-home treatments may include alternating between an ice pack and heating pad, rest, and over-the-counter pain medications.

Flexible Flatfoot

Flexible Flatfoot is an incredibly common condition in children under the age of five. The condition is when the arch disappears when the child stands, but reappears when the child sits. More often than not, children do not experience any symptoms associated with Flexible Flatfoot, and its remedies on its own by the time the child is five years of age. However, some children experience pain in their feet or legs when walking or performing certain movements.

Treatment Options

If your child experiences pain associated with Flexible Flatfoot, then there are potential treatment options available. Most commonly, doctors recommend wearing supportive shoes or custom-made orthotics to temporarily wear until the condition improves over time.

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are classified as a non-cancerous skin growth that can develop on various areas of the foot, but mainly the balls of the foot or heel. The growths are caused by a viral infection known as human papillomavirus (HPV) and can be easily spread from person-to-person. While some plantar warts will heal on their own, others get buried deeper into the foot, causing intense pain and discomfort.

Treatment Options

While plantar warts may eventually go away on their own, your doctor can remove it faster and more effectively than other home remedies. Try to protect your feet in public areas such as swimming pools or locker rooms, and avoid contact with infected individuals.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes a burning rash that can manifest into dry, cracked feet. The disease can appear on the entire foot, but tends to be incredibly prevalent in between the toes and soles of the feet, causing itching, burning, and stinging. Children may contract the infection via moist environments such as a locker room at a public pool or skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

Treatment Options

Athlete’s foot can be painful, so people often soak their feet and apply anti-itch cream to relieve some symptoms. Your doctor can provide more guidance on managing an athlete’s foot based on the severity of the condition.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are common causes of foot pain that originates from the toenail growing into the skin. Typically, ingrown toenails occur on the big toe, and symptoms are marked by swelling, redness, and discomfort. Anybody can experience an ingrown toenail, but the usual cause in children is due to wearing improper fitting footwear. Because children’s feet grow so quickly, parents don’t always realize that their child’s foot is too big for their current shoes.

Treatment Options

Of course, children should wear proper-fitting shoes as the best course of action to avoid getting an ingrown toenail. Additionally, you can soak the foot in warm water and use an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to reduce infection chances. Your doctor may have to cut and lift the toenail in severe situations to promote a faster recovery.

Physical Injury

There’s no denying that children are active. With an elevated amount of activity comes a certain level of risk of injury. Children may injure their feet during regular play or a sport. Sprains and breaks happen, and it’s important to have a professional check out your child’s foot to ensure that there isn’t serious damage that requires additional care.

Treatment Options

The severity of the injury will determine the treatment plan. For some people, proper rest will lead to a quick recovery, while in other instances, ongoing exercises and stretches may be required. Of course, in extreme cases, there may be a need for surgery to repair the damage.

Call A Name You Can Trust

As you can see, there are many common reasons for foot pain as well as treatment plans specific to each case. Please don’t ignore your child’s foot pain. It could be a warning sign of a serious condition that needs professional attention. If your child is suffering, we are here to help. At Weil Foot & Ankle Institute, we are dedicated to providing the best care possible for each of our patients. Allow our knowledgeable staff to evaluate your child’s condition and provide a thorough evaluation of the source of their foot pain.  Please contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation. Together, let’s work towards a treatment plan that gets your child back to feeling their best.

About Dr. Hannah Park

About Dr. Hannah Park

Dr. Hannah Park grew up in the Chicago area and studied biology at Wheaton College. While she enjoys all aspects of podiatry, her specialty is pediatrics. She aims to treat every patient like a member of her own family.

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