Common Heel Pain in Children

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Dr. Steven Brook discusses treating common heel pain in children.



Imagine a hook in a wall holding a picture frame that is just slightly too heavy. The hook will hold the frame, but the strain will slowly pull it out of the wall—or possibly break it altogether. Constant pulling on any object will stress it over time. This happens in your body, too. Soft tissues that are too tight strain the bones to which they are attached. This is a particular risk for active children, who may develop Sever’s disease in their heels.

Heel Pain in Growing Feet

Sever’s disease is not as frightening as it may sound at first. The condition is not a “disease” at all; it’s the result of strain on the growth plate in the heel bone, causing a gradually increasing discomfort in active children. The bones in the lower limbs tend to grow faster than the supporting soft tissues. This creates bones that are just a bit too big for the soft tissues connected to them. The now too-tight tendons, like the Achilles, end up pulling on the bone and causing strain. A naturally tight tendon, biomechanical issues like flat feet, and even obesity, can also contribute to this condition.

As a result, the growth plate, or the line where new bone tissue develops, becomes inflamed and irritated. Your son or daughter will notice discomfort or stiffness in the heel when he or she stands or walks, particularly first thing in the morning. There may be swelling or redness as well. Hard impact activities, which strain the Achilles tendon, typically make the discomfort worse. Your child may even develop a limp after running.

Know Your Child’s Risks

Young athletes in late elementary through middle school have the highest risk. Many children go through rapid growth spurts, particularly in their feet, during these years. Active kids are often heavily involved in sports, too, which can strain the Achilles tendon. While the problem is uncomfortable, it won’t last forever. Since the pain comes from irritation in the growth plate, your child will eventually outgrow it. Once the bones mature and stop growing, the plate seals and solidifies. Fortunately, though, you don’t have to wait until then for your child to have some relief from his or her discomfort.

Eliminating Your Child’s Pain

Country Foot Care doctors will carefully examine your child’s painful heels to rule out other possible conditions. Our expert staff may use diagnostic images to look for other issues that could be contributing to the pain. Then we will help your son or daughter begin conservative therapies to relieve the discomfort.

Your child will need to take a break from all hard-impact activities that cause pain so the heels can rest. Pushing through the discomfort will only compound the problem. Ice the back of the foot regularly to help decrease inflammation and ease some discomfort. Most likely your child will need to switch his or her shoes to models with more support. Heel lifts or other orthotics to cushion the back of the foot may help as well.

We may recommend child-safe anti-inflammatory medications for stubborn pain. Physical therapy stretches to lengthen the Achilles tendon are another important treatment. Have your child perform wall stretches and other Achilles exercises before bed and first thing in the morning to combat tendon tightening.

Sever’s disease is a common problem for athletic kids, but it doesn’t have to keep your son or daughter from being active. Let our staff at Country Foot Care help care for your child’s lower limbs.  If you think that your child may be suffering from Sever’s disease or any other foot issues, contact Country Foot care by phone to make an appointment.  For your convenience, appointments can be made online using the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT button at the top of this page.  New patients can also download necessary paperwork via this link as well.


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