Maybe you’ve noticed that your child seems to be having trouble running up the soccer field, or perhaps that old expression about having “two left feet” seems to describe a child who falls often, even when nothing is blocking the way.
Problems with the feet are not unusual as a child grows and begins walking and running more. Common problems include:
Having flat feet
“Some signs and symptoms that may necessitate an evaluation in our office include in- or out-toeing. The child may be clumsy and fall a lot, especially while playing sports. Or the child might complain of foot or lower leg pain after extended periods of activity,” Dr. Mallette says.
Most children’s foot issues can be treated easily and effectively. Dr. Mallette recently helped a girl with knee and hip pain, giving her a thorough biomechanical exam which revealed she had deformities that caused her lower legs to twist, flat feet, and one leg that was longer than the other.
“We fit her with custom molded orthotics to correct her foot deformity and address her limb length,” Dr. Mallette says. “Her knee and hip pain subsided and her gait was optimized.”
Other foot and ankle conditions require surgical intervention, although they have excellent results. A toe walker, for example, recently underwent a procedure to lengthen his Achilles tendon to bring his heel back down to the ground. This eliminated the pain the boy was experiencing from just walking and improving his gait.
If left unaddressed, many pediatric foot issues can quickly become more severe as the child approaches adulthood. Others will resolve on their own, making a physical exam necessary to determine which foot issue is which, Dr. Mallette explains.
“Many life-long foot problems begin in childhood and early detection and intervention can impact the progress of these disorders,” he says. “Leg or foot pain is usually indicative of an underlying problem.”
Adolescents may experience pain in the feet, ankles and/or legs as a result of growth spurts at the growth plate centers, commonly called growing pains. These growth plates separate bone and cartilage in younger children and begin to close as the cartilage turns to bone in puberty.
“The most common area for pain related to the growth plate is behind the heel. As children play sports, they may overuse the foot and ankle and the Achilles tendon pull on the heel’s growth plate which causes inflammation,” Dr. Mallette says.
Children who already have flat feet or other foot problems suffer the most with growing pains. They will usually be fitted for an orthotic to properly position and strengthen their feet and muscles, Dr. Mallette says.
For more information, call the Children’s Foot Center in the Pediatrics Department of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island at (401) 729-2582.