Common Causes of Foot and Leg Pain in Children

    Search Small Steps Parenting
    Getting To The Foot Of The Problem!

    Don’t worry – they’ll grow out of it” is a common response to parents concerns about the development of their children’s feet or legs. In some cases this can be true, however as children grow up their feet and legs undergo various stages of development.

    We regularly concern ourselves with the child’s eyesight, teeth and vaccinations, but how much time do we really take to understand our child’s developing feet?

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    • Do I know what foot type my child has?
    • Is my child walking and developing correctly?
    • Is my child walking and standing pain free?
    Children with particular foot ailments like over pronation or flat feet are the foot, knee and back pain sufferers of the future. Paying close attention to your child’s feet can help prevent pain and discomfort in adult life.

    When kids start walking they often appear uncoordinated and off-balance. Once they get the hang of being vertical, the muscles and ligaments in their legs and feet get stronger and work more effectively and they are off and running and before you know it! Sometimes, however, kids experience problems with their legs and feet, which make mastering the art of walking a little more difficult. When treating children's foot problems it is important for parents to remember that the needs of children's feet are different from those of adults.

    The most common causes of foot and leg pain seen in children:

    Flat feet
    Most people have an arch in the bottom of their feet between their big toe and heel. This part of the foot does not touch the ground unless you are flat footed. Babies and children under the age of 2 usually have flat feet, but by the time they are 5 years old, arches will have formed. There is also a chance that flat feet in childhood may lead to foot problems later in life due to a child's developing body using other muscles, tendons, and bones to compensate for the lack of support in the structure of the foot.

    In-toeing (toes point inwards)
    When one or both feet turn inward, a child is said to be pigeon-toed (medically, this condition is called 'in-toeing'). This is commonly seen in toddlers who are learning to walk and whose balance and posture has not yet developed properly. By 5 years of age this problem has usually fixed itself.

    Out-toeing (toes point outwards)
    Out-toeing is much less common than in-toeing. The most typical presentation is within the first or second year of life. Most children are born with external rotation contractures of the hips and this resolves shortly after walking begins. In those children in whom the resolution is slower, out-toeing is the result when they first start walking.

    Growing pains
    Often a child will wake up at night and complain of pain and cramping of the muscles in the legs, specifically the calf muscles. The cause of this is thought to be associated with a flat foot structure and tight heel cord.

    Heel pain
    Heel pain is one of the more common foot complaints in children. This condition usually present between the ages of 8-15 years, usually a dull type pain that is made worse with activity. A major contributing cause is over-pronation: rolling in of the ankle joint and flattening of the arches, it places increased pressure on the growth plate area while it is attempting to grow.

    Knee Pain
    It is very common in children aged between 8 to early teens, especially if they are very sporty. When the feet excessively pronate (roll in) this causes the entire lower limb to internally rotate, this puts excessive loads on the growth plate in the knee and causes pain.

    Bow legs
    If a child stands up straight with the feet and ankles touching, but the knees are wide apart, they probably have bow legs. This is something that usually affects very young children and is a result of being curled up in the womb for 9 months! Once your child begins to walk, their limbs begin to straighten out and by the time they hit 3 years old, the condition usually no longer exists.

    Knock knees
    This problem comes about when the knees touch but the ankles remain wide apart. Affecting kids mainly between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, this issue usually resolves by the time the child is 7 years old.

    What if the problem doesn’t go away?
    If pain or discomfort persists then your child might need help with correct foot development.
    If you’re not sure or have a concern or would just like to have peace of mind, have your child’s feet checked by a professional.
    Register With Small Steps Parenting