Heel pain is becoming more and more common among active kids, tweens and young teens. If your child is suffering, there is help! Advanced Orthopedic’s Dr. Paul Stone, a specialist in complex reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle, answers three of the most common questions about heel pain in kids:
My child has severe heel pain after sports practice, what is causing this?
Heel pain (also called Sever’s Disease) typically occurs in highly active kids ages 9 to 14 whose feet are still growing and not fully developed. While kids’ feet are growing, the process of forming new bone leaves a structural weakness in the back of the heel. Strain on that growth area causes the growth plate to become inflamed, which results in heel pain that gets worse with increased activity. High activity and growth spurts also place strain on the Achilles, while repetitive activities like running and jumping exploit that weakness and increase the pain.
My kids have not yet experience pain, but they are active and growing, how can I prevent this kind of pain?
Watch for and prevent overuse. This may sound difficult, but a little “schedule management” can go a long way! It’s important to view your child’s aggregate schedule when making decisions about physical activities. High-activity periods such as training camps, tryouts, and weekend competitions place serious strain on growing feet, leaving heels vulnerable to overuse and pain when paired with other day-to-day activities. Make simple, small changes to adjust for these busy times, by building in down-time where kids are off their feet.
How can we stop the pain? My child says it’s unbearable.
Since the pain stems from an on-going growth process, rest and time will always help, and this pain will typically resolve on its own. However, there are a few tools to minimize pain so you don’t have to sideline your young athlete:
- Ice. Ice will sooth heels after activity and help to reduce inflammation. It’s also a good routine to get kids off their feet after an intense workout.
- Heel Cups. Flexible heel cups, such as Tuli’s, slip into any athletic shoe and cushion and elevate the heel bone, taking pressure off the Achilles tendon and improving flexibility.
- TLC. That’s right, caring for growing feet is one of the most important tools at any athletes disposal. Keeping kids’ feet clean, well rested and well supported is essential. By minimizing bare feet, flip flops, and other flimsy footwear when kids are growing so rapidly, you can help (although you might not be the most popular person in your home).
Our children’s feet are indeed busy. Slowing them down is difficult, but looking out for them just may keep those little dogs from barking.