Children’s Heel Pain: Why is My Son/Daughter Limping?

With the fall sports season here, heel pain in kids who participate in soccer and football will rise.  Your son/daughter can’t finish practice because the heel hurts.  New shoes have been purchased, but nothing seems to help.  There doesn’t seem to be any pain in the morning.  More than likely your child suffers from calcaneal apophysitis. 

Calcaneal apophysitis, or Sever’s (See-vers) disease, is caused by repetitive trauma to the growth plate in the heel bone, or calcaneus, resulting in inflammation.  It’s the most common cause of heel pain in ages 8-14.  Years ago, it was more prevalent in boys, but because of the increased participation of girls in sports, it is now about equal. 

Tight calf muscles are one of the most common causes of Sever’s disease.  Other causes include cleated shoes, poor fitting shoes, or over pronation (flattening of the foot).  Typically symptoms are present with running, jumping, or other physical activity, but is relieved with rest.  In advanced cases, pain will be present all the time.  Rarely is there swelling, bruising, or redness. Pain will be present on the back of the heel, and/or  the bottom of the heel, or most frequently when squeezing the heel bone from side to side.  

The goal of treatment is to return the athlete to his/her sport as soon as is safely possible.  Self-treatment includes rest, ice before and after activity, anti-inflammatories, heel lift/cushions, calf stretching, and orthotics.  In most cases at Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic, orthotics resolve the heel pain rather quickly as the orthotics stabilizes the feet and relieve the stress on the heel.  More times than not, an over-the-counter insert will not work, and only delay the healing process. My daughter suffered from this, and within a week of getting her orthotics, her pain was gone. 

So when your child is limping during or after practice, consider the above treatments, and keep custom foot orthotics in mind if the pain doesn’t resolve, and hinders his/her ability to participate.

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