Foot and ankle pain is frequent in adolescents. Many factors can contribute to pain. In this blog, we’ll be focusing on three common aspects resulting in pediatric foot and ankle pain:
- Arch development
- Growth Spurts
- Overuse and Sports Injuries
Read on to learn about the common causes of pediatric foot and ankle pain and when it may be time to see a doctor.
1. Arch Development
The arches of our feet develop between the ages of two and three. However, sometimes a child’s arches do not form as expected, resulting in flat feet.
There are two types of flat feet:
- Flexible Flat Feet – an arch only exists while an individual sits or stands on tiptoes.
- Rigid Flat Feet – an arch is always absent.
Flat feet can cause ankle, heel, and arch pain, mainly while walking and running. Typically, shoe inserts, heel cups, and rest effectively manage discomfort.
If the pain severely impacts a child’s daily life, other treatments may be recommended, such as:
- Physical Therapy
- Surgery (Rare)
It is recommended that children with flat feet see an orthopedic specialist regardless of their pain levels.
2. Growth Spurts
Most growth spurts occur during the first two stages of puberty and taper off in the third (last) stage.
Growth spurts occur during different age ranges for girls and boys:
- Girls – Ages 8-13
- Boys – Ages 10-15
Growth spurts do not cease until a child’s growth plates have completely closed (hardened into bone).
Growth plates tend to close at different age ranges for girls and boys:
- Girls – Ages 13-15
- Boys – Ages 15-17
Sever’s Disease may develop as children experience growth spurts. This condition occurs when the heel bone grows faster than the muscle and tendons surrounding it, resulting in pain-inducing inflammation.
Ways to prevent injury and strengthen the feet and ankles during growth spurts include using the following:
- Shoe Inserts (Orthotics)
3. Overuse and Sports Injuries
Foot and ankle pain in adolescents is often attributed to overuse and sports injuries. Injury risk increases in athletics, such as:
- Track & Field
Unsurprisingly, ankle sprains, foot fractures, and Achilles tendinitis occur frequently in physically active adolescents.
- Ankle Sprain – overuse and improper technique weaken the inner ankle, compromising its stability and increasing the chance of injury.
- Foot Fracture – occurs upon a forceful impact and most commonly presents as toe fractures.
- Achilles Tendinitis – repetitive stress irritates and inflames the Achilles tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone.
There are many preventative measures (exercises, stretches, etc.) to help your child stay injury free. Preventive actions strengthen the muscles around joints, maintain bone health, increase joint stability, and more.
The Foot & Ankle Center
If your child is experiencing any foot pain, we urge you to make an appointment with one of our podiatrists. What’s causing the pain may not be serious. However, it’s best to receive a specialist’s opinion. They can guide you if further treatment is necessary.
To request an appointment, please view https://www.facstl.com/new-patients/.