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Youth Heel Pain: A “Growing” Problem

By Dr. Jeffery Gregori, 09/25/22, 7:15PM PDT


Local podiatrist Dr. Jeffery Gregori provides tips and advice on foot care

Dr. Gregori is a local podiatrist with 22 years of experience.

The soccer season is underway, and your child is going to practices a few times a week and games have started too. Some of you have been playing tournaments.  So, you're enjoying more time on the field, more running, and more activities. This can lead to some early overuse injuries in your player. 

Today, I would like to share with you a topic with you that often brings up a lot of questions for parents: Heel pain in kids.

Sever's Disease: A Common Condition For Growing Kids

Is your player complaining of heel pain during or after they play?  Kids having pain of any kind is not normal.  However, it is not uncommon for kids to complain of their heels (or even ankle) hurting, especially during the growth years.  There is a common condition of pediatric heel pain known in the medical world as Sever’s disease (aka: calcaneal apophysitis).  Disease?!  Do not let the name concern you. It is not a life threatening issue.  When it was first named in 1912,  a lot of conditions were called “diseases”. 

Sever's disease is a quite common condition that occurs in growing children between 8-14 years old (8-13 in girls; 10-14 in boys).  It is usually an irritation between the repetitive action of the Achilles tendon (tendon along the back of the lower leg) and the growth plate along their heel. A growth plate is cartilage between two areas of bone that allows the bone to expand and grow until the bone hardens at a specific age. The repetitive nature of running and/or jumping can cause irritation along the growth plate and results in the player complaining of pain.  Sometimes swelling occurs, but not too often. You may hear your child complain of pain after an activity or even when they get up in the morning on their first step out of bed.

Treatment Options And When To Rest

The good news is that pain from Sever's disease is self-limiting (it resolves on its own) and can be treated with some consistent stretching of the Achilles tendon (3x/day), icing around the heel, use of cushioned heel lifts, over the counter inserts, and, if needed, a little bit of Ibuprofen or Tylenol for a certain period of time. 

If the pain is significant enough that it affects their level of play, then I do recommend a period of resting from the activity (darn it!) to allow the tissues to settle down and recover.

Recommended Tips from Dr. Gregori

What I find helpful and important is to encourage the player to wear shoes and inserts when in and out of the house to give consistent support to the foot that is injured. Daily, consistent treatment allows the body to gain momentum to allow it repair and recover.

If your child is following all these recommendations, then usually the pain resolves itself within 2-3 weeks. Only in severe cases, or cases where treatment is not consistent, does a cast or a walking boot help aid in the recovery.

So, don’t fret when your player starts to complain of heel pain after they have played their 3rd game of soccer or 4th baseball game in a weekend. It just needs a little tender care and some rest, and they should recover without any harm. Milkshakes and pizza don’t hurt either.

About the author: Jeffery Gregori, DPM is a local podiatrist that has been in practice for 22 yearsHe is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and a member of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. He practices with Bay Area Foot Care, Inc with offices located in Danville and Pleasanton. You can contact the Bay Area Foot Care office in Danville, CA at 925-830-2929 or the BAFC office in Pleasanton, CA at 925-556-4460.