Westlake Kensington Square, 28687 Center Ridge Road
(440) 871-3400

Lakewood 3386 Warren Road
(216) 671-7440

Lorain 1740 Cooper Foster Park Rd. West Suite B
440-282-1221

Wellington 508 Dickson St.
1-888-961-8038

Pediatric Heel Pain

What Is Pediatric Heel Pain?

Heel pain is a symptom, not a disease. In other words, pediatric heel pain is a warning sign that a child has a condition that deserves attention.

Heel pain problems in children are often associated with these signs and symptoms:

  • Pain in the back or bottom of the heel
  • Limping
  • Walking on toes
  • Difficulty participating in usual activities or sports

The most common cause of pediatric heel pain is a disorder called calcaneal apophysitis (see below), which usually affects 8- to 14-year olds. However, pediatric heel pain may be the sign of many other problems, and can occur at younger or older ages.

What Is the Difference Between Pediatric and Adult Heel Pain?

Pediatric heel pain differs from the most common form of heel pain experienced by adults (plantar fasciitis) in the way pain occurs. Plantar fascia pain is intense when getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting for long periods, and then it subsides after walking around a bit. Pediatric heel pain usually doesn't improve in this manner. In fact, walking around typically makes the pain worse.

Heel pain is so common in children because of the very nature of their growing feet. In children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not yet fully developed until age 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (the apophysis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. Too much stress on the growth plate is the most common cause of pediatric heel pain.

Causes of Pediatric Heel Pain

There are a number of possible causes for a child's heel pain. Because diagnosis can be challenging, Corrigan Podiatry is best qualified to determine the underlying cause of the pain and develop an effective treatment plan.

Calcaneal apophysitis Also known as Sever's disease, this is the most common cause of heel pain in children. Although not a true "disease," it is an inflammation of the heel's growth plate due to muscle strain and repetitive stress, especially in those who are active or obese. This condition usually causes pain and tenderness in the back and bottom of the heel when walking, and the heel is painful when touched. It can occur in one or both feet.

Tendo-Achilles bursitis. This condition is an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) located between the Achilles tendon (heel cord) and the heel bone. Tendo-Achilles bursitis can result from injuries to the heel, certain diseases (such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), or wearing poorly cushioned shoes.

Overuse syndromes. Because the heel's growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, pediatric heel pain often reflects overuse. Children and adolescents involved in soccer, track, or basketball are especially vulnerable. One common overuse syndrome is Achilles tendonitis. This inflammation of the tendon usually occurs in children over the age of 14. Another overuse syndrome is plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes.

Fractures. Sometimes heel pain is caused by a break in the bone. Stress fractures--hairline breaks resulting from repeated stress on the bone--often occur in adolescents engaged in athletics, especially when the intensity of training suddenly changes. In children under10 another type of break-acute fractures can result from simply jumping 2 or 3 feet from a couch or stairway.

Diagnosis of Pediatric Heel Pain

To diagnose the underlying cause of your child's heel pain, Corrigan Podiatry will first obtain a thorough medical history and ask questions about recent activities. The child's foot and heel, will be examined. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition, and in some cases the doctor will order a bone scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, or a computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan. Laboratory testing may also be ordered to help diagnose other less prevalent causes of pediatric heel pain.

The preceding is for informational purposes only. The material is derived from the current medical knowledge on the topics listed. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This site does not provide medical advice.  A special "thank you" is extended to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, as much of the information is derived from their literature and websites.

Office Hours for Corrigan Podiatry

Westlake

9:00 - 5:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Westlake

9:00 – 5:00

Warren Rd.

9:00 - 12:00

Westlake

9:00 - 5:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Westlake

9:00 – 4:00

Warren Rd.

9:00 - 12:00

Westlake

9:00 – 4:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Two a month Westlake / Lakewood

With full

Surgery staff

9:00 - 12:00

Call for Details

Wellington

One Saturday / Month

We will be happy to visit qualified homebound patients.

The maps above show how best to get to the office. Read More