With your kids just starting back to school, it's important to be aware of potential foot problems they may have so they get off to the right start. Kids can't learn or play with other kids when they're in pain. And for kids who play soccer or other sports, foot pain is a non-starter.
Foot problems are not always obvious. Pain is not the only indicator that something might be wrong. Your kids may shy away from playing with their friends or avoid showing you their feet. A child that frequently trips and falls can also have a foot issue.
Other things you may see in a child under five are toe-walking, in-toeing and out-toeing, and flat feet. In a child age six or older you may hear them complain of knee, shin, or ankle pain or you may observe poor posture or knocked knees.
Painful Foot Conditions In Kids
Kids can develop ingrown toenails any time of year but they are more prone to develop them in the fall. Kids have been barefoot or in sandals most of the summer. Now when school starts they're in closed toed shoes and starting back to playing sports. Wearing shoes that are too short, repetitive trauma during sports and family history are the main culprits for young kids. Fortunately ingrown toenails can usually be resolved in one or two office calls through a short surgical procedure. Prevention of this foot problem includes purchasing new shoes for kids in a timely fashion and cutting their toenails straight across.
Children and especially teenagers are more susceptible to warts than adults. Warts are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). They are harmless but can be painful when found on the bottom of your kid's feet. Warts can spread easily to other parts of their body and to other kids through sharing clothing and towels. Warts are often treated with a topical medication or surgery. To prevent warts kids should avoid sharing towels with other kids or their siblings if they are already affected.
If you have plantar fasciitis caused by flat feet it's not uncommon for your kids to suffer from this type of heel pain as well. Flat feet are inherited and the tendency to develop plantar fasciitis as a result is common.
Kids who don't outgrow their flat feet by ages four or five have a condition called developmental or pediatric flatfoot. They will have flat feet for the rest of their lives. To prevent plantar fasciitis and other conditions that result from flat feet, kids as young as four or five can be fitted with specially designed orthotics called Little Steps®. Older children will eventually need custom orthotics to keep their feet in proper alignment.
Another cause of heel pain in children is Sever's Disease. Muscle strain and inflamed tissue in the heel most often occurs when the heel plate is not fully closed (common in pre-adolescents and adolescents) and participation in sports adds stress to this part of the foot. Reduction of activity and custom orthotics will help greatly with this condition.
Injury to the growth plate in the ball of the foot is the cause of Frieberg's Disease. Girls are three times more likely to develop this condition than boys. Running and other activities can make the pain worse. Left untreated this condition can cause painful arthritis. Non-surgical treatment of this condition includes a combination of non-weight bearing, orthotics, wearing rocker bottom shoes, and stretching.
Most kids will outgrow toe-walking. For those who continue to toe-walk after age two, some can walk flat footed but other children won't be able to due to the development of tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons resulting from toe-walking. Most toe-walking has no known cause. The podiatrist will check the child for any neurological problem to rule out a specific cause. Casting and bracing are the primary treatments for toe-walkers who cannot walk flat footed.
In-toeing or "Pigeon toes" are very common in young children and they usually outgrow this condition. In-toeing shouldn't cause any pain, but if it does your child should be evaluated by a podiatrist. Treatment for this condition depends on the cause. There are three types of developmental problems that cause in-toeing. Only severe metatarsus adductus (feet bend toward the middle part of the foot to the toes) is treated with casts or special shoes. Other causes of this condition resolve on their own.
Out-toeing is much less common than in-toeing. It can run in families, affect older children, usually resolves on its own, and can have many causes. Often children who out-toe have no pain or problems with function. In some cases children limp or have pain in the hip, thigh, knee, or foot. Even if the out-toeing doesn't resolve most children are pain-free and can participate in sports. The need for surgical intervention is uncommon.
If your child is experiencing foot pain or your concerned about how they're walking, call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment. Often same day for emergencies and less than 2 weeks for chronic foot pain. You can also request an appointment online.
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Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.