Understanding and Addressing Heel Pain in Kids

LEAP Foot and Ankle Specialists
February 5, 2024

Understanding and Addressing Heel Pain in Kids

Indoors and outdoors, youth athletes stay active year-round in competitive sports, and for many of them, heel pain has become "just another part of the game." When a child complains of heel pain, it should be diagnosed promptly because it may be a warning sign of a serious foot problem.

Heel pain occurs frequently in children aged 6 to 14 as their feet grow and the heel bone develops. As children become more active in sports, they increase their risk for growth-plate injuries and subsequent heel pain.This is especially true at back-to-school time when we see an increase in middle and high school athletes experiencing heel pain especially kids that play football and soccer.

Understanding Heel Pain in Kids

New bone forms in an area behind the heel, known as the growth plate, and cartilage is vulnerable to severe inflammation from strain or stress. With repeated stresses and strains from overactivity, the heel becomes very painful. One specific condition associated with this is Sever's Disease.

Sever's Disease: Also known as calcaneal apophysitis, Sever's Disease is a common cause of heel pain ingrowing children. It specifically affects the growth plate in the heel, causing discomfort during activities. Despite its name, Sever's Disease is not actually a disease but an inflammation of the growth plate.

Even though growth-plate trauma is the leading cause of heel pain in young people, the condition can often be difficult to diagnose. Parents should be concerned if a child has pain in the back or bottom of the heel, limps, walks on the toes, or seems to have difficulty participating in normal recreational activities. The condition is diagnosed by a thorough examination of the child’s feet and legs and possibly medical imaging tests to rule out other more serious causes of heel pain, such as plantar fasciitis, bursitis, tendonitis, bone cysts, bone tumors, or fractures.

Treatment Options for Youth Athlete Heel Pain

In most cases, mild or moderate heel pain, including Sever'sDisease, can be treated successfully with a multifaceted approach:

1.    Heel Lifts: Elevating the heel helps reduce strain on the growth plate, easing discomfort.

2.    Shoe Inserts: Well-fitted shoe inserts provide additional support, promoting proper foot alignment, especially in children with flat feet.

3.    Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Medications can help alleviate inflammation contributing to heel pain.

4.    Stretching and PhysicalTherapy: Targeted exercises and physical therapy can enhance flexibility and strength.

Severe Cases and Potential Solutions

In severe cases, the foot and ankle may be immobilized in acast, and, in some instances, surgery may be necessary. However, it's crucial to note that heel pain in young people often returns after treatment because the growth plate is still forming until the age of 14 or 15.

Preventive Measures for Recurrence

To lower the risk of recurrence, parents and young athletes cantake proactive steps:

·      Footwear Selection: Choose well-constructed shoes with good support, especially during sports activities.

·      Avoid Spiked Athletic Shoes: Restrict the use of spiked athletic shoes, particularly on hard fields.

·      Know Physical Limits: Advise young athletes to avoid competition that exceeds their physical abilities.

Seek Professional Help

If you have noticed any foot or ankle pain in your young athlete, including symptoms related to Sever's Disease, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Call LEAP Foot and Ankle Specialists PLLC in Lakewood, CO, at 303-233-9107 and make an appointment with Dr. Menchin or Dr. Hurwitz. Same-day appointments are available.

Understanding and addressing heel pain, including Sever'sDisease, in youth athletes is crucial for their long-term foot health. Taking proactive measures and seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference in managing and preventing recurrent issues.


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