My twelve-year-old complains of his heel hurting. What could be causing it?
Why heel pain occurs in active children. The human foot was never meant to
run on concrete, asphalt, gym floors, or pivot in soccer or basketball. Most
heel pain in children is due to using the foot in a way it was never designed to
be used. Heel pain is especially prevalent in children, since the bottom of the
heel is not yet fully grown, so it contains a soft area of the bone called a
growth plate, which is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard
surfaces. This is why heel pain is common in children after they begin a sport
that requires a lot of running or twisting on hard surfaces. When you examine
your child's heel and you pound on it gently and he winces, this is likely to be
due to an overuse injury by pounding his heel too much on hard surfaces.
What to do about heel pain?
Cushion the child's heel. Put a
in your child's shoe to cushion the sensitive, developing
heel bones from pounding on hard surfaces. If the heel pain is severe, it would
be best to take a week or two out of the activity you suspect is causing the
pain. While your child is not playing the sport, be sure he wears a high
quality running shoe that has a supportive heel, which will at least take some
pressure off the heel during the times he does not wear the lower heel sports
shoes, such as soccer shoes. If after a few weeks of rest and wearing a heel
pad the painful heel has not completely subsided, certainly seek medical
Note to soccer players
The heel of soccer shoes is purposely low to
make the foot more useable for pivoting and kicking without injury. Be careful
not to place a heel pad in your child's soccer shoes without medical
consultation, since if the pad is too high the lifting of the heel makes the
ankle more prone to sprain.