Children’s foot conditions are a repeated cause of parental concern. Photo: Tim Mossholder

Protecting your kid’s feet

Children are always growing and changing. It is great to see them progress from crawling to walking and for them to get confident with their feet. Rapid growth at this point however, this can result in children experiencing vague symptoms that can be difficult for parents to spot or to know what to do for help.

A common question that people usually ask us

is ‘what are the most common children’s foot problems’?

Some of the common things we see kids presenting with in our clinic include: flat feet, in-toeing, out-toeing, regular tripping or falling, growing pains, heel pain with exercise, ingrown toe nails and verruca.

When should I be concerned about my child's foot pain?

There is not one specific time where foot pain in a child is ‘normal’. In some cases you may be able to spot what the cause of the foot pain is like blisters on toes from tight fitting or narrow shoes.

Alternatively, there may be times where your child may experience pain in the knees, shin or foot when playing sports and the problem may not be crystal clear.

When looking at your child walking, you may see something like in-toeing, flat feet or knock knees which may ring alarm bells or get you pondering if this is something that you should be concerned about.

If you are ever concerned or wondering if something should be checked, one piece of advice would be to bring your child to a podiatrist (foot and walking expert) to get them checked.

Here are the top five most commons problems we see in Achilles Foot Clinic and some things to look out for if you find yourself becoming concerned about something you see in your child's feet:

1. Heel pain

Heel pain is quite common in children; it is often due to repetitive movements. This would usually present when your child is growing quite quickly.

The technical term for this condition is called severs. This pain usually takes place at the back of one or both heels especially during and after sports.

It is mostly seen in children that are very active from the age of 8-14 years of age. Overuse from jumping, running, and pounding on hard surfaces can aggravate the structures near the back of the heel.

Treatment for heel pain would usually include resting from sporting activities that place stress or cause irritation to the back of the heel and assessing if exercises or support of some kind is needed.

2. Verrucas

Verrucas are very common in children and teenagers. Around one in three children will get a verruca. They are warts on the bottom of the foot, you usually develop them on weight-bearing areas of the foot, such as the ball of the foot or the heel. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Children tend to catch them more easily but we are not entirely sure why.

Although they are usually harmless, they can be embarrassing, painful and difficult to get rid of. Treatment can range from surgical removal, over the counter remedies or my favourite microwave therapy. I love doing this treatment as there is no need to take time off and no nasty needles or acids used.

3. Athletes Foot

As kids are heading back to school and wearing their school shoes for a long period of time, the feet can get sweaty and smelly from all the running and racing around. Athletes Foot technically known as tinea pedis is a common contagious fungal infection.

The fungus is naturally occuring on our skin and can go out of control in warm dark moist environments just like on feet in shoes.

However, anyone at any age can get this infection but people who suffer from sweaty, damp feet are more prone to catching it. This will often appear as a red rash with small blisters and unfortunately can smell.

4. Ingrown toenails

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows into the skin surrounding the nail. It usually occurs on the big toe and can cause redness, swelling and pain that occur around the corners of the toenail. Ingrown toe nails are often caused by shoes that are too narrow or too tight or not cutting the nail correctly, that is why it is very important to have your children's shoes fitted properly and to cut and file their nails regularly.

If you feel that your child is suffering from an ingrown nail, place your foot in warm salt water to reduce the risk of infection but if the problem does not go away, contact a podiatrist as soon as possible.

5. Ill-fitting footwear

As summer time is leaving us and the kids go back to school, getting new shoes and fitting is big undertaking in my house (I have four kids and delighted there is no more home schooling!). Ill-fitting shoes can cause all manner of problems and trying to save by wearing shoes that are too small can be a false saving. I strongly recommend getting your kids’ shoes measured every time you buy shoes and even more often than that when they are very small. As a rule of thumb, you need a thumb width between the length of the longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Kids are not small adults and medicine for kids including their feet is a separate speciality. Podopeadiatrics or the medicine of kids' feet is something podiatrists study and as a profession podiatrist are the best place to start when it comes to getting your kids’ feet in perfect health.