How to Treat Foot Pain in Children

Three Methods:Identifying the Cause of the Foot ProblemUsing Home TreatmentsTaking Your Child to a Podiatrist

Many children can experience foot pain as they continue to grow, for a variety of reasons. If your child complains of foot pain, he may be experiencing growing pains in his heel bone[1], there may be medical issues with his feet, such as flat footedness, or he may be wearing improper shoes.[2] Ankle and foot pain is also common in children at around age seven to eight due to the high amount of activity and running around they do every day.[3] Before you can treat your child’s foot pain, it’s important to identify the root cause of his pain and get a diagnosis from a medical professional.

Method 1
Identifying the Cause of the Foot Problem

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    Ask your child where he is experiencing pain on his feet. Have your child point to the area or areas on his feet where he is feeling a sharp pain or throbbing. He may also have pain in other areas of his legs, like his knees, his ankles, or his calf muscles. Ask him to point out the specific areas of pain. This will help you determine where the pain is originating on his feet and legs, and determine the possible causes of his pain.[4]
    • If he notes the pain is in his heel, he may have Sever's disease. Sever's disease, also known as “painful heel” or pediatric heel, is caused by disturbances in the growth plate of your child’s foot and is common in kids who are active in sports, especially during early puberty.
    • If he complains of pain on his entire foot, as well as in his ankles and calf muscles, he may suffer from flat footedness.
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    Determine if your child injured his foot. Falling on the foot, twisting it, injuring it while kicking, or dropping something on it can cause sprains, strains, contusions or fractures that lead to pain. See your health care provider or go to the emergency room if your child has pain after an injury or has sudden foot pain.
    • Limping does not necessarily indicate an injury in the foot. A small child may limp due to pain from an injury anywhere in the hips, leg, or foot.
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    Note if your child complains of itchiness or burning on the skin of his feet. Your child may also complain of severe itchiness between his toes. The skin of his feet may appear scaly, flaky, or dry, and your child may also feel like his feet are burning or irritated. These are symptoms of athlete's foot. This skin issue is caused by a fungus that may have ended up on your child's feet due to expose to the fungi in a swimming pool, a gym, a locker room, or from contaminated socks or clothing.[5]
    • Athlete's foot is an unpleasant skin condition that will only get worse if it is not properly treated. You should bring your child to the doctor. She will then prescribe over the counter powders, ointments, and medicated creams.
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    Examine your child’s outdoor shoes. Some children suffer from foot pain due to improper running shoes or shoes that are too tight on their feet. Check inside your child’s shoes for any sharp patches or spots that may be rubbing against your child’s feet.[6]
    • Often, ill fitting shoes will contribute to surface pains like blisters and raw skin on your child’s feet. However, if your child feeling pain in the muscles and joints of his feet, there is likely a deeper issue with his feet.
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    Look at your child’s feet for bunions or ingrown toenails. Bunions typically occur due to increased motion of the arch region of your child’s foot and will appear as a bump extending out of one side of the ball of your child’s foot. Your child may have inherited a genetic predisposition to bunions or he may have had a foot deformity at birth that was not properly diagnosed. If you suspect your child has bunions, take him to a podiatrist for treatment.[7]
    • To check if your child might be suffering from an ingrown toenail on his foot, examine his big toes to see if there is any redness or rawness around the skin of his big toe nail as well as areas where the nail is pinched against the skin. There are home remedies you can try to relieve pain caused by ingrown toenails. However, the best course of action is to take your child to your family doctor so he can treat the ingrown nail.
    • You should also check for plantar warts, which are common in children and can cause pain when walking on them. A pediatrician, podiatrist, or dermatologist can treat warts.
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    Check if your child walks on his toes or with a limp. Ask your child to take a few steps forward and watch him as he walks. If he seems to putting most of his weight on his toes or walking with a slight or pronounced limp, he may be suffering from a common foot problem for children: pediatric heel pain, also known as Sever's disease.[8]
    • Pediatric heel pain is caused by your child’s growing feet, as the bones in your child’s foot may be growing faster than his tendons and his heel bone (medically called the calcaneus). This gap between your child’s growth plate can lead to a weak area at the back of your child’s heel and pulling the tendon in your child’s feet. This then puts more stress on the growth plate in your child’s feet and can lead to heel pain.
    • If you suspect your child might be experiencing pediatric heel pain, it’s important you take him to your family doctor, who can recommend a podiatrist or orthopedic doctor. The doctor can examine your child’s feet and present treatment options. You may be referred to a foot and ankle surgeon for heel pain problems. Catching pediatric heel pain early is the best way to prevent the development of lifelong foot pain and foot issues.
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    Notice if the your child’s arches disappear when he stands with his feet flat on the ground. This is a symptom of flat footedness, a foot issue that, when severe or causing symptoms, requires professional treatment. Flat footedness is a hereditary condition that can also lead to other symptoms such as:[9]
    • Tenderness, cramping, and pain in the foot, the leg or the knee.
    • Awkwardness or limping when walking.
    • A hard time finding shoes that feel comfortable.
    • Little energy to participate in a physical activity that requires running, jogging, or sprinting.
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    Take your child to emergency room if he cannot put any weight on his feet, or if your child has foot pain due to an injury or fever and a limp. If it becomes too painful for your child to put any weight at all on his feet, or if he has a burning pain in his feet, head to the nearest hospital or clinic. He may be suffering from a serious foot issue that needs immediate treatment.[10]

Method 2
Using Home Treatments

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    Buy insoles for your child’s shoes. If you think your child’s shoes are what are causing your child’s foot pain, consider buying padded insoles for your child’s shoes to make them more comfortable. The insoles will help to raise your child’s heels and can relieve basic foot pain like soreness or stiffness.[11]
    • If your child complains about foot pain when wearing the same pair of shoes, discard the pair of shoes and replace them with better fitting shoes. Make sure your child wears proper running shoes when playing sports or spending time outdoors so their feet are well supported during any strenuous activity.
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    Try R.I.C.E. If your child is feel throbbing pain in his feet after a day of exercise, you may try R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This will likely help to resolve any immediate pain for several hours or overnight. To practice R.I.C.E:[12]
    • Allow your child to rest their feet and legs by avoiding any physical or strenuous activity.
    • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel, or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, to their feet by tucking it under their heels. Keep the ice on for 20 minute intervals, and wait 10 minutes between each interval before placing the ice back on their feet.
    • Wrap a compression bandage, such as an ACE bandage, around both of your child’s feet to keep the swelling down. The bandage should be snug but should not cut off the blood circulation to your child’s feet.
    • Elevate your child’s feet by placing them on a pillow or several blankets. This will help to reduce any pain or swelling.
    • Use an over-the-counter pain medication if needed. Pediatricians commonly recommend ibuprofen for temporary pain relief.
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    Seek professional care if your child’s pain does not go away after several days. If you try home treatments and your child’s foot pain persists, make an appointment with your family doctor. A pediatrician or orthopedist can often treat foot pain. In some cases you may be referred to a foot and ankle surgeon or a podiatrist.[13]
    • A podiatrist will help to identify the cause of your child’s foot pain and is specially trained to treat the growth plates, bones, and soft issues in a developing child’s feet.
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    Get medicated ointment for athlete's foot. If your doctor diagnoses your child with athlete's foot, she may write a prescription for an anti fungal cream or powder. Your child will need to treat his feet with the anti fungal product for about four weeks, and continue to treat his feet with the product one week after the skin condition appears to go away so the fungus is fully removed.[14]
    • You should also switch your child's socks to absorbent socks that wick away moisture from his feet. This will prevent the growth of new fungi that can cause athlete's foot. He should avoid wearing shoes made out of non breathable material like vinyl, as this can lead to excess moisture on his feet and the potential growth of fungi.[15]

Method 3
Taking Your Child to a Podiatrist

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    Allow the podiatrist to examine your child’s feet. The podiatrist may ask your child to sit, stand, raise his toes while standing, and to stand on his tiptoes. He may also check your child’s heel cord (the Achilles tendon) for any tightness and also look to see if the bottom of your child’s foot has any calluses, warts, ingrown toenails, or wear and tear.[16]
    • The podiatrist may also ask you if anyone in your family is flat footed and if there is a history of neurological or muscular disease in your family.
    • The podiatrist may get x-rays of your child’s feet to get a closer look at the bone structure.
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    Discuss your child’s treatment options. Once the podiatrist has assessed your child’s feet, he will diagnose the cause of your child’s pain. If your child is flat footed, but it is not too severe, or if he is suffering from Sever's disease, or pediatric heel, the podiatrist may recommend non surgical options such as:[17]
    • Resting and avoiding activities that cause pain until the symptoms go away.
    • Over-the-counter pain medication and anti inflammatory medication.
    • Stretching exercises to extend the heel cords on both feet.[18]
    • Over-the-counter cushioned arch supports for your child’s shoes.
    • Custom made orthotics for your child’s shoes to balance out their feet and support any sensitive areas on their feet.
    • Physical therapy to strengthen any weak areas in your child’s feet.
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    Consider surgery if your child has severe flat footedness. In some cases, a child’s flat footedness cannot be corrected with non surgical options and may require foot surgery. Your podiatrist will refer you to a foot surgeon who can then walk you through the surgical procedure.
    • Most foot surgeons recommend the child be at least eight years old to undergo surgery. The foot surgery for flat footedness will require the surgeon to lengthen your child’s Achilles tendon. The surgeon will also lengthen your child’s heel bone using a bone graft that is inserted on the outer side and edge of the middle of the foot in a procedure called calcaneal lengthening osteotomy.[19]

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health | Feet Knees and Legs