Kids foot pain – not your mother’s heel pain!

Heel pain, unlike heel spurs, that occur in adults is very uncommon in children. While heel pain in adults usually lessens after a period of walking, kid’s heel pain on average doesn’t get better with walking. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse. Of those children who do get heel pain, the most common cause is a disturbance to the growing area at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the achilles tendon attaches to it. Calcaneal apophysitis(inflammation of the growth plate) is also called Sever’s disease, although it is not a true “disease.” It classically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14.

Pain is felt at the back, side pain and/or at the bottom of the heel bone.Squeezing the sides of the calcaneal bone is painful.   The pain is generally relieved when the child is not active and becomes painful with sports. Overuse and stress on the heel bone during sports is a chief cause of calcaneal apophysitis. The heel’s growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, resulting in muscle strain and inflamed tissue. Other potential cause’s calcaneal apophysitis include childhood obesity.

Running and jumping make the symptoms worse.Participating in sports such as soccer, cheer, dance and basketball aggravates the heel bone.  One or both heels can be affected. In severe cases, the child limps. It can occur in one or both feet and is more common in boys, but itoccurs in girls as well.

To diagnose your child’s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, a podiatrist obtains a thorough medical history, asking questions about recent activities. Your foot doctor will examine the child’s foot and leg. X-rays are used to evaluate the condition.

Treatment may consist of the following:

  • Stretching hamstring and calf muscles 2–3 times daily
  • Apply an ice pack after activity for 20 mins, repeated 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Reduce activity. Cut back on sporting activities – don’t stop, just reduce the amount until symptoms improve (if the condition has been present for a while, a total break from sport may be needed later)
  • Support the heel. Avoid going barefoot.  A soft cushioning heel raise reduces the pull from the calf muscle on the growth plate, increasing shock absorption. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel.
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue.
  • Immobilization. In severe cases of pediatric heel pain, the foot and ankle may need to be casted.

The great news is Sever’sdisease is self-limiting meaning thatover time your child’s heel pain will eventually go away on its own when the foot is used less or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability. If your child continues experiencing severe heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your podiatrist.


Dr. Olga Garcia Luepschen and the Gentle Foot Care Center are located on US 27.  For further information call 863-314-9255 or visit


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