Geelong Podiatrist, Ryan Timmins, looks at ‘Why does my Child’s foot hurt?’

In this series our Geelong Podiatrist, Ryan Timmins, takes a broad look at ‘Kids Foot Pain’. Be sure to circle back for more specific blogs over the coming weeks and months.

How common is foot & leg pain in Kids?  

Foot and lower limb pain in kids and adolescence can be very common. As adults, we often underappreciate the amount of activity and exercise our kids participate in on a daily basis. When you tally up time spent walking or riding to school, playing games during recess and lunch, sport & P.E classes during the day, after school sport training sessions, game’s or tournaments on the weekends and more, you’re looking at A LOT of activity. 

When you combine the amount of activity these young developing bodies are being exposed to, with factors including hormonal changes, growth spurts, a limited comprehension of their own physical limits and musculoskeletal changes, it is easy to see why pain or injury may develop. 

What causes foot and leg pain in Kids?

There are a multitude of reasons and diagnoses that can explain why a child may be experiencing foot and leg pain. This may range from acute musculoskeletal injury, to chronic overuse pathologies and more. The list of possible diagnoses can often be long and complicated, requiring an in-depth knowledge to differentiate between them all.

For example, most people will not know that we are born with 22 partially developed bones in each of our feet. Many of our midfoot bones do not ossify (or develop) until we are between 3-5 years old. By this age, we have up to 45 bones in each foot that will continue to develop and fuse over time until we typically have our fully developed foot consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons.

During this development stage of the foot, we can sometimes find abnormalities where two of the wrong bones may become fused, limited blood supply to certain bones in the feet may occur, and boney growth plates may become irritated and inflamed. Additionally, injuries such as sprains, fractures, overuse stress injuries and more are also commonly observed.  

What are the red flags we advise parents to watch out for with respect to their child’s foot or leg pain? 

  • Night pain – Nocturnal pain is a symptom that should always be watched for. Often it can be blamed on common, non-harmful growing pains within the developing child’s musculoskeletal system. However, night pain may also be indicative of specific skeletal/bone injuries such as stress fractures, stress reactions, osteochondrosis, tarsal coalition and more. 
  • Pain with activity – Pain with activity can be an indicator of a number of different musculoskeletal injuries. These can range from sprains, fractures, overuse injuries, growth plate injuries, osteochondroses, tarsal coalition and more.
  • Pain that occurs without an injury trigger – Pain that spontaneously develops is not uncommon in children as their bodies develop, however it is not normal in all cases. As mentioned above, a child’s body is exposed to high amounts of activity and load on a daily basis, so pain without a moment of injury can often be indicative of certain overuse injuries, or musculoskeletal pathology. 

What should you do if your child is experiencing pain in their foot or leg?

Regardless of the type of pain, duration of pain, intensity of pain or location of pain, it is recommended that you always consult a health professional. Given the extensive list of differential diagnoses that can be aligned to any presenting child or adolescent, it is important to have them assessed and treated by a medical professional from the start.

Even if symptoms are only minor, a trained professional will be able to thoroughly assess your child and rule out any major injury or pathology. Alternatively, if there is cause for further assessment or testing, a medical professional will be able to action this in a timely manner. 

What to do from here?

To book an appointment to have your child’s foot and lower limb assessed and treated by one of our expert Podiatrists, simply book online or call us on 5290 5238


Ryan Timmins