The most common athletic foot injury that I see in children is heel
pain. Since spring sports (soccer, track, baseball, etc.) are
right around the corner, here are some suggestions to keep your
Heel pain usually begins as your child increases his or her
activity. Running and sprinting are catalysts for producing the
pain. The pain can worsen quickly if your child walks barefoot,
wears flip flops, or wears flimsy shoes.
Heel pain commonly occurs on the bottom of the heel, but it can also
appear on the back and even the side of the heel. Heel pain
often feels worse after practice or games and can be fairly intense
with first weight bearing and when getting back on the feet after
sitting for a period of time.
The most common causes of heel pain in children is an injury to the
growth plate of the heel bone (calcaneal apophysitis), injury to the
dense ligament on the bottom of the heel (plantar fasciitis) or
stress fracture of the heel bone. Stress fracture of the heel
bone (calcaneus) is a very significant injury and can be diagnosed by
a thorough exam by a podiatrist and x-ray of the heel bone.
Heel pain is typically due to a mechanical problem in foot function.
This problem can be seen in feet that tend to lean inward, feet with
flattening arches and feet that demonstrate a bouncy gait.
Treatment of heel pain requires support of the feet. This means that your child must discontinue barefoot walking, flip flops and flimsy shoes, and switch to supportive athletic shoes with a solid sole and firm heel counter. Adding arch supports (orthotics) inside the shoes can help to realign the feet to reduce the stresses to the heels. Unfortunately over the counter arch supports that you can purchase at pharmacies and discount department stores are usually too flimsy to provide adequate support. Ice and stretching can be helpful techniques to reduce the pain as well. If the condition persists for more than 2 weeks then evaluation and treatment by a sports-oriented podiatrist may be required to successfully resolve the symptoms. If the symptoms are intense enough, then your athlete may need to take a break from the sport in order to recover.
Prevention of heel pain is easier to accomplish than treatment of the condition. Here are a few ideas: minimize barefoot walking or flip flops, wear sturdy supportive shoes, gradually build up training in preparation for the season, warm up before practices and games, and stretch to maintain flexibility.
I hope that this information will help you to recognize a treatable condition. Even better, I hope that you can prevent this condition so your athlete can compete and succeed.