Heel pain in Children

Heel pain in kids is really common and causes a lot of anxiety and disturbance from normal day to day and sporting activities. The causes are different from adults:

  • Apophysitis (Sever’s disease) – pain from the growth plate of the heel
  • Haglund’s deformity – bumps on the back of the heel
  • Achilles tendon pain (occasionally)

I am often advised that a child has ‘plantar fasciitis’ but this is not true – the condition only occurs in adults. If you have been assessed by a health care professional and advised of this diagnosis in a child, then the practitioner may not be a specialist in treating children.

Rarely there are other causes of heel pain such as:

  • Cysts
  • Stress fractures
  • Tumours
  • Subtalar arthritis
  • Back pain – referred to the foot

Because of these causes it is always important to have a proper assessment of your child’s foot.

Apophysitis is inflammation of the growing part of the heel bone. It is caused by excessive activity, often on hard ground and is commonest in sports that involve impact on the heel which includes running & jumping as the main culprits. Soft heeled shoes are helpful and silicone insoles are usually very helpful. A reduction in levels of activity is often necessary to resolve the pain which can last for months. There is no surgery that can help this. In the long term, it never causes any long term problems which is reassuring, at least.

Haglund’s bumps can cause rubbing due to shoe wear over the prominence of the heel. Changing shoes to ones that don’t rub is all that is necessary but sometimes due to the site and size of the lump it is best to have them removed with a small operation. This cannot be done until the heel has virtually stopped growing at about the age of 13 yrs in girls and 15 yrs in boys.

The prominence at the back of the heel can rub and irritate the skin and achilles tendon

The prominence at the back of the heel can rub and irritate the skin and achilles tendon