Pediatric Foot Care
Little Feet, Big Problems
Every parent wants the best for their child. So when something seems “not quite right,” or your little one complains about foot pain after a fun day on the playground, you’re understandably anxious and eager to find out what’s wrong.
As parents ourselves, we get it!
Here’s the thing, too—while many childhood foot problems are temporary or self-correcting in time, others are not. And if your child does have a problem that needs special care, it’s critical that we identify and treat it as early as possible. It’s best to tackle these issues early, before they become more difficult to treat and more likely to cause problems into adulthood.
At Heartland Foot & Ankle, our aim is to treat every child who comes into our office as one of our own. That means not only offering the best treatments available (so your child can keep doing the things they love, now and in the future), but also creating a warm, caring environment for the entire family.
Children Need Podiatrists, Too!
When most people think about foot doctors, they tend to associate the practice with mature, “well-used” feet. But the truth is “new” feet sometimes require attention, too.
Why? Here are some reasons:
- In the first year, your child’s feet grow, change shape, and expand rapidly. If he or she wears shoes that are too small or too tight, it could impact their development.
- As a toddler, your child begins taking his or her first steps. This is the time they learn how to run, play, and move freely. Sometimes, children learn how to walk by standing on their toes. This is common and easily treated if stopped early.
- Throughout adolescence, your child plays on the playground, joins a sports team, and runs around freely – and sometimes injuries can happen. Without proper treatment, your child’s growing bones could be permanently damaged.
That being said, you should always keep in mind that children sometimes are unable to recognize when there is a problem. A painful heel or ingrown toenail can easily go unnoticed merely because children don’t quite know how to communicate their symptoms.
So it’s important that you pay close attention to your child’s walking gait and feet shape. And if they ever complain of discomfort in their feet or ankles, your best course of action is to come in and visit our office for a better evaluation. By catching foot injuries early, you could improve your child’s future.
Common Foot Injuries in Children
So what should you be looking for? This is an incomplete list, but some of the most common foot problems we see in kids include:
- Flat feet. Many kids don’t actually develop permanent arches until age 5 or 6, so active treatment isn’t always necessary. However, in some cases arches never develop, or may be caused by a more serious structural or neuromuscular problem. If your child’s flat feet are the result of one of these more serious causes—or if they are simply causing them pain—it’s crucial to identify and address the problem as early as possible.
- In-toeing and out-toeing. Many young children have feet and toes that appear pointed inward or outward due to being born with an abnormal rotation in the bones of the feet, shins, or thighs. In many cases, these misalignments will go away on their own. However, we recommend close observation and intervention if the rotation is causing gait problems or pain.
- Heel pain. This symptom is not reserved for adults only! Children can suffer from heel pain, and the cause is often a condition unique to kids and adolescents called Sever’s disease. That’s a misnomer, fortunately—Sever’s isn’t actually a disease, but an overuse injury caused by irritation of the growth plate of the heel. Temporarily stopping athletic activities and bringing your child in for a checkup can help facilitate a quick, full recovery.
- Other sports injuries. Kids can be rambunctious, and they are susceptible to all manner of foot and ankle sports injuries, including ankle sprains, stress fractures, ligament tears, and more. Sports injuries that aren’t treated properly early in life can lead to chronic pain, instability, and early arthritis later in life, so it’s important to get your child the care he or she needs.
- Ingrown toenails. Kids are highly susceptible to ingrown toenails. This is partly due to the fact that they’re constantly outgrowing their shoes, which can put extra downward pressure on the nail! However, kids who struggle a lot with ingrown toenails even with correctly fitting shoes likely have a genetic predisposition toward getting them. We can provide a simple, in-office procedure to stop part of the nail from growing back, preventing your child’s ingrown nail from returning.
- Skin infections and conditions. Kids are also highly susceptible to skin conditions including warts, athlete’s foot, and foul odor (bromodosis). There are a number of reasons for this, including sweaty shoes, underdeveloped immune systems, and increased likelihood of contact with infected surfaces. Bacterial, viral, and fungal skin infections can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing, and they’re often contagious, too—so we recommend immediate treatment.
Any of these issues could end up being a warning sign of more serious issues that may be lurking under the surface. We say this not to scare you, of course! We just want to stress that getting a professional evaluation is the wisest course of action.
So, listen to what your kids are telling you or showing you about their pain. If they complain to you directly, or if they demonstrate any signs that their feet might be bothering them (withdrawing from play, compulsively pulling off shoes, walking with a strange gait, etc.), please come and see us! If more treatment is necessary, we’ll make sure your child gets it. And if not, you’ll still be able to enjoy peace of mind.
Effective Treatments from Doctors Who Specialize in Children’s Feet
Although they may look like adult feet from the outside, children’s feet are in many ways very different—and often require different methods of treatment. Most obviously, they are still growing! Bones are also softer and more flexible in early and middle childhood, and the immune system is still underdeveloped—among other differences.
That means kids often develop different kinds of injuries than adults—and when the diagnoses are the same, the best treatment option may be quite different.
Our team is specially trained to respond to the unique needs and challenges of children’s feet. This includes several advanced therapies that are safe and highly effective for kids, including MLS laser therapy, that can help get them back to sports and play faster after an injury.
Orthotics for Kids
Just like with adults, custom orthotics are one of the most effective treatment solutions for kids who have underlying structural or biomechanical problems with their feet and ankles—including flat feet, high arches, overpronation, in-toeing and out-toeing, and others.
At Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates, we provide high quality orthotic inserts—including custom orthotics—for teens, adolescents, and even young children. If your child is dealing with chronic pain and struggling to keep up with peers, there is a great chance that the right set of orthotics will greatly benefit them.
However, we understand that, since kids grow so quickly, one pair of orthotics isn’t likely to last very long—and parents are understandably concerned about expenses. That’s why we offer our affordable orthotics outgrowth program!
- All kids under age 13 are eligible to enroll.
- For three years after you enroll, any new pair of custom orthotics your child needs after the first one costs just $99 each, no matter how many times your child outgrows them.
Simply put, we think all kids deserve the highest quality care and support for their feet and ankles, and we’re committed to making sure that care is as affordable and accessible as possible!
Are Orthotics the Right Choice for My Child?
If your child is having trouble keeping up or playing without pain, failure to address the problem now can have profound long-term consequences. Custom orthotics may be the solution—and they’re simpler, more comfortable, and more affordable than you might think!
Interested in learning more? Let’s get in touch.
Going to the Doctor Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
We know that going to a doctor’s office can be a scary proposition for a kid, especially a specialist clinic that doesn’t exclusively deal with pediatrics. But it doesn’t have to be!
At Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates, we work hard to make each appointment a warm, welcome, and inviting one for your child—as well as any other children who might be tagging along on the trip! We are always well stocked with special snacks and treats, coloring books, toys, and other exciting things for your little ones.
And as parents ourselves, we love working with kids and always take time to smile, encourage them, and explain every test or treatment we need to perform in language that kids can understand. Although we can’t promise there will never be a meltdown, we do everything we can to make sure your child feels valued and loved—because they are!
So if you’re concerned that your child’s feet are in pain, or may not be developing correctly or on time, please call us to schedule an appointment right away! As doctors, there’s no greater satisfaction than helping ensure your little one is on the right path to lifelong healthy feet!