Children experiencing foot pain is normal after rigorous physical activity. In some cases however, it can be a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. So if your child is experiencing foot pain on a regular basis, here is some information that may help.
What causes foot pain in children?
According to the Pediatric Rheumatology Journal, most cases of foot pain in children are related to the combination of stress, minor trauma, and an unusual structure of their foot. Let’s look at these in more detail, and analyze some possible causes of foot pain in kids:
Flat feet is the term used when the normal arch of the feet is not evident. This arch is essential in giving the feet support while standing or doing activities like walking and running. Children who complain of foot pain while or after doing these activities may have flat feet.
There are two types of flat feet. One is the flexible flat feet that occurs normally to children 3 years old and below. To young children, the foot arch is not that visible because they simply have looser ligaments that they will outgrow soon. This is also one of the reasons why younger children often walk tiptoed or with their toes squeezed in to help them gain their balance.
On the other hand, older children and teens may have fixed flat feet which can be painful and may need supportive interventions for them to stand, walk, and run with ease. Rarely, surgery may be advised if the flat foot interferes with their daily activities.
Children are very active and it is usual for them to have minor injuries involving their foot – like bumping unto a hard surface, or some superficial punctures and abrasions. No matter how little they seem, repeated injuries can trigger foot pain in children.
Additionally, active children may also be more prone to major foot and ankle injuries like sprain and strain. So, it is best to check those tiny feet every now and then for possible foot injuries, especially if your child shows signs of injured feet (such as redness, swelling, bruise, wound, pain and trouble in using the affected foot.)
A sudden impact may also cause fractures in the bones of the foot. If your child complains of severe foot pain that is accompanied by swelling, bruising, and inability to move the area, then treat it as if it were fractured and minimize movement of the area until it is able to be examined by a doctor.
Calcaneal Apophysitis (Sever’s Disease)
This condition affects the growth plate (physis) on the heel bone (calcaneus). This area is not fully developed until the child reaches about the age of 14, so it remains weak and sensitive until then. Sudden impact, overuse, and repetitive stress may trigger the painful inflammation in this area which is termed as calcaneal apophysitis.
In calcaneal apophysitis, the foot pain can affect the bottom part of one or both heels. When this condition affects the child, pain on side of foot may also be evident when the sides of the heels are squeezed. In kids, the pain is aggravated by walking. Children aged 5 to 11 who engage in active sports and play, such as jump roping, basketball, soccer and track and field, are more likely to have this condition.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissues that support the foot arch from the front towards the heel. The overuse or injury of these tissues can trigger inflammation that may cause foot pain. When you try to assess your child’s foot pain, the bottom of the foot that is close to the heel will often be described as aching. This aching is usually worse in the morning. The pain in the bottom of the food will also make it more difficult for your child to walk.
This is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the heel bone to the muscles of the calf. The Achilles tendon supports the forward motion of the feet while walking or running, which is why it can become inflamed when exposed to a sudden, strenuous activity.
The inflammation of the Achilles tendon triggers heel and foot pain, swelling, warmth and difficulty in walking. It usually affects children who are engaged in repetitive pivotal, jumping and running activities like basketball and dancing.
How to relieve foot pain in children
Depending on the cause of the pain, you may find that there are home remedies that will help until you can visit a doctor. Here are some relief measures that may help:
Offer comfortable footwear
Sometimes, foot pain is simply triggered by an ill-fitted footwear that adds up stress on the bones, muscles and tissues in the feet. To minimize foot pain, make sure to check if your child’s shoes still fit his feet properly and ask if he is still comfortable using the footwear. A child’s foot size grows as quickly as their bodies do, so it may help to check this up from time to time.
If your child engages in sports, it would be best to invest in quality running shoes or sports shoes that provide a better support in the heels and foot arch. These types of shoes are designed to reduce impact and stress in the feet while doing strenuous activities and may provide better support to prevent foot pain.
Consider adding an insole to their shoes
If your child’s feet easily get tired with their daily outdoor activities, you may consider adding an insole to his or her shoe. This remedy can help young children who complain of tiredness or pain due to being flat-footed. However, take note that adding an insole may make the shoe more fitted, so it is best accompanied by a footwear that is a bit larger that your child’s usual size.
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Encourage rest in between activities
Children are full of energy and before they realize it, they may have outrun their bone and muscle activity limits. If you have an active child, make sure to remind them to rest in between strenuous activities, especially when it involves high-impact sports and activities. This can help relieve their foot from repetitive stress and overuse and may be a vital factor in preventing foot pain in the future.
Offer a warm bath after a tiring day
A warm foot soak or full bath can be relaxing after an active day at play or at school. Let your child enjoy a warm bath to help relieve foot pain and promote better sleep.
This acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate and a valuable first aid treatment for foot pain that is due to injuries or trauma. It goes like this:
Rest the affected area and avoid unnecessary movements
Ice must be applied immediately to numb the area and prevent inflammation
Compress it using a splint or compression bandage, or apply firm pressure using clean gauze for bleeding wounds
Elevate if possible. Have your child lie down and elevate the area a bit by propping a small pillow underneath. This technique can help reduce swelling, inflammation and bleeding.
When to seek medical help for foot pain
Foot pain that is caused by fatigue or poorly-fitting shoes may easily be relieved at home, however, more severe foot injuries and conditions may require you to seek consultation from a doctor. Schedule a visit to your doctor if your child’s the foot pain:
- is not relieved by first aid treatment and home relief measures
- affects your child’s ability to stand, walk, or use their feet
- interferes with his or her normal daily activities
Additionally, you should seek prompt medical attention if you suspect that your child has an emergency situation and portray symptoms such as:
- continuous bleeding that is not relieved by RICE
- severe and intolerable pain
- bruising and swelling
- inability to move the affected leg
Foot pain in children may be caused by a variety of conditions. While some of these can be relieved at home, others require treatment by a medical professional. Because the causes can vary so greatly – and may be either mild or severe in nature, it is a good idea to consult a doctor if necessary. They will be able to provide a prompt assessment of the degree and characteristics of foot pain along, with the other symptoms that may be present aiding in diagnosis.
This can help you formulate an immediate first aid response, plan out home remedies, or get referred to a specialist for futher treatment.