Foot pain in children can have a number of causes, some of which originate in the way your child is built, and some from injury or disease.
One source of pediatric foot pain is having flat feet: a flat, or pronated, foot is a fairly common shape, and it means that when a person is standing normally with both feet on the ground, the arch disappears, causing the foot to lie flat against the ground. Around 90% of babies are born with flat feet, but they grow out of it. There are three kinds of flatfoot: flexible, which is non-painful and doesn’t require treatment since it doesn’t cause other difficulties; flexible flatfoot with a short Achilles tendon, which is much less common but can cause pain and other difficulty; and rigid flatfoot, which is the result of problems in the bone structure of the foot and may only affect one or the other. Rigid flatfoot is uncommon, and is only painful to 1 in 4 people. If your child experiences pain or struggles with physical activity because of flat feet, ask your doctor about the right arch support and stretching exercises.
Children’s foot pain is frequently related to Sever’s disease, which, despite the name, is not very serious and is easily treated. In Sever’s disease, the growth plate in the heel – an area at the end of the bone where cartilage turns into bone, allowing the foot to grow – becomes inflamed. It usually affects kids going through a growth spurt sometime between the ages of 8 and 15; it’s very rare past this stage, since the bone is fully grown. This pain is exacerbated by physical activity, putting strain on the heel that has grown faster than the tendons and muscles surrounding it; poorly-fitting shoes, a flatfoot, and being overweight can also contribute. Sever’s often causes kids to limp or walk on their toes as they avoid putting pressure on the heel, and the heel may feel stiff when they wake up or have visible swelling. Rest, icing, and stretching are the most common forms of treatment.
Ingrown toenails are often caused by shoes or socks that are too tight, or by improper trimming. They cause pain and swelling in the toes, as well as infection if the nail breaks the skin. Don’t try to treat this at home – consult a doctor to direct the nail out of the foot.