Children can get many of the same foot problems as adults, but some conditions may take on different characteristics, and some may occur more frequently in children due to their active lifestyles, sensitive skin, and developing bodies. The most common foot and ankle issues seen in children and teens include:
Heel pain in children is often caused by repetitive stress on the growth plate in the heel bone. Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever’s disease) causes inflammation and pain in the back and bottom of one or both of the heels.
It is a common cause of foot pain in active children from 8 to 14 years of age because the new bone is still forming at the growth plate and doesn’t fully develop until at least age 14. Overuse from running, jumping, and pounding on hard surfaces can irritate the heel’s growth plate causing muscle strain and inflamed tissue.
Heel pain may also occur as a result of other conditions, such as:
- Irritated nerves under the heel
- Bursitis – painful inflammation of the bursae (cushioning between bones, tendons, and muscles)
- Heel spurs – abnormal bony growths that develop at the back of or under the heel
Treatment for heel pain typically includes taking a break from activities that put stress on the heel bone, using orthotics to support the heel, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to ease pain symptoms, and stretching the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Immobilizing the foot and ankle may be necessary for severe cases of pediatric heel pain. If the heel pain persists or reoccurs, other treatments may be explored.
Flexible flatfoot is most common in young children and is characterized by an arch that disappears when the child stands up (so the feet appear flat) but reappears when sitting. The condition usually occurs in both feet. Most children do not experience any symptoms from the condition, but those who do may feel pain or cramping in the feet or legs while walking. In most cases, children outgrow the disorder without treatment by the age of 5.
If your child does experience symptoms, they can usually be alleviated by wearing supportive shoes and custom-made shoe orthotics for arch support. Seek advice from a pediatric podiatrist if your child stops playing sports or withdraws from other physical activities as a result of flatfoot symptoms.
An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows into the skin surrounding the toenail. It usually occurs on the big toe and causes tenderness, redness, and swelling around the corners of the toenail. Ingrown toenails are often caused by tight shoes and improper cutting of toenails.
Treatment typically involves soaking the affected foot in warm water and using an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. If the problem persists, your pediatric podiatrist may cut or lift the corner of the nail to allow the toe to heal more easily.
Plantar warts usually develop on weight-bearing areas of the foot, such as the heel or ball of the foot which takes the most pressure. They are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a viral infection – human papillomavirus (HPV) – in the top layers of the skin. Over time, warts can grow inwards, into the foot which can be very painful. Warts are transmitted easily through person to person contact as well as indirectly, such as from floors in communal areas (locker rooms and public showers). They are highly contagious.
Plantar warts may eventually go away on their own without treatment, but if they are painful, your podiatrist can remove a plantar wart easily and more effectively than an over-the-counter remedy.
Athletes foot or tinea pedis is a common and contagious fungal infection. It can cause a scaly rash that can burn, sting, and itch and may lead to blisters or dry, cracked skin on your feet. It usually appears between the toes and on the soles of the feet and can spread to the toenails and cause fungal nail infections. It occurs after direct exposure to fungi (including yeast), typically in a moist environment like a locker room, public shower, or swimming pool or from the skin to skin contact with an infected person.
Pediatric Podiatrists at The Podiatry Group of South Texas
At The Podiatry Group of South Texas, Dr. John Konkol Jr. and Dr. Michael Langlois are board-certified foot and ankle surgeons who are skilled in the compassionate, personalized care of pediatric patients. They understand the issues that infants, children, and adolescents face as well as how to treat them.
If your child has a foot or ankle disorder, contact the pediatric podiatrists at The Podiatry Group of South Texas. We treat patients in eight different locations in Texas. Call the location nearest you or use our online form to request an appointment.