As adults who at times find it difficult to look beyond our own = view of or participation in running and athletic comps (specifically where they fall distinctly into our ‘nope’ boxes), it’s easy to forget that for our kids, it can be the activity they go to bed looking forward to the next day. When running for a club, at school or as part of a team, it is great for kids socially, there is reward and recognition in meeting their goals, and it leaves them feeling great.
So when heel pain develops, while our approach for ourselves may be to acknowledge that we’re just going to have to rest for the next few weeks until we feel better (which isn’t what we recommend), it’s important to take a more proactive approach for our kids. Both for treating the problem and getting them back to running quickly, and very importantly, to stop this happening again in the future.
There’s a bit of a presumption that when kids develop pain in the lower limbs, any time from the moment they can walk until they reach 18, that it’s “growing pains”. Here’s what you should know about this presumption:
Truthfully, the range of causes of heel pain in young runners is large. There’s plantar fasciitis (we’re seeing this much more often in younger kids as they start competitions from a younger age), Achilles tendonitis, fractures, stress fractures, bursitis, damage to the fat pad beneath the heel, heel spurs and juvenile idiopathic arthritis – to name a few.
We find it disappointing that when you Google ‘kids heel pain’, the very first thing that comes up is always growing pains (otherwise known as Sever’s disease), leading parents to make this assumption. The only way to get the right treatment that will help your kids return to running as quickly as possible is to have the right diagnosis. This is where your podiatrist comes in!
When we’re running, our heels are usually the first part of the foot to hit the ground – and they can hit it hard. Combined with hard running surfaces, a child’s foot posture and any problems/abnormalities there, often intense and frequent training schedules if they’re running competitively, ‘seasonal’ running sports and the fact that their bones are growing and muscles are lengthening, and heel pain in its many forms is a very clear risk.
While the signs and symptoms vary depending on the injury or problem, it’s likely that your child’s painful symptoms will be exacerbated by physical activity, and ease with rest. Often, pain tends to start during or after running, settling down in the evening as they put their feet up. While some heel pain may be obvious with redness and swelling, other causes won’t have either of these, and you wouldn’t otherwise know that something was wrong.
Sometimes, kids won’t complain of pain, but will try to avoid the action that causes it instead. If you notice your child limping or walking in an odd way that they wouldn’t normally, it’s always a great idea to talk to them about why they’re walking like that to see if there’s any underlying pain.
Here at Sole Motion, we work extensively with children that are heavily involved in running, athletics and sports. We’re proud to partner with a number of sports clubs to look after the foot and leg health of their teams. Hence, effectively treating heel pain is one of the areas we excel in. We treat kids heel pain by:
We start by performing a comprehensive assessment to get the right diagnosis. This involves examining your child’s gait, foot posture and alignment, muscle strength, flexibility and range of motion, footwear, any painful sites, and more. If necessary, we can refer for an x-ray or ultrasound to confirm the problem.
We believe that the best treatment plan doesn’t just consider the individual characteristics and needs of a child’s lower limbs, but of their chosen sport and physical activities, too. Running and athletics places very specific stresses and demands on certain areas of the feet – and we need to understand this and take it into consideration throughout the next step – their treatment plan.
Anyone can prescribe a treatment plan while telling your child to take the next few months off running but that is rarely a good solution.It relies on them staying away from sports and risking potential further injury if they do decide to go for that run because they’re feeling better before the injury has properly healed. At Sole Motion, our treatment plans combine best-practice medical principles for injury repair, while considering each child’s quality of life, their goals, sports participation and the like.
While some injuries like ankle sprains may be accidental and a one-off injury, the majority of causes of heel pain are overuse injuries, meaning that muscles or tendons are overused, or excess force is repetitively placed on a bone or joint. These injuries have distinct causes and contributing factors, so by addressing these factors (for example foot posture, unsupportive footwear, training techniques, tight muscles, weak muscles, etc), we can help prevent their heel pain from recurring in the future.
If they do, we’re here to help. Our team is highly experienced in working with active kids to help them achieve their goals and stay pain and injury-free. Book your appointment online here or call us on 1300-FX-FEET