Pain in the Heel of a Child's Foot

What causes heel pain in a child’s foot?

The sudden development of pain in the heel of a child’s or adolescent’s foot is usually related to an injury to the growth plate of a bone located near the heel. This condition is called Sever’s disease.

Another condition that behaves similarly to Sever’s disease is Achilles tendonitis — an inflammation of the tendon at the back of the heel -- but it’s not a growth plate injury. Achilles tendonitis can actually be a contributing factor to Sever’s disease if the inflamed tendon pulls too hard on the growth plate of the heel bone.

Symptoms of Sever’s Disease include:

  • Pain and swelling in the affected heel(s)
  • Tenderness in the back of the heel
  • Surge in pain with activity and weight bearing
  • Tendency to walk on toes and keep weight off heels

This condition is most common among active and athletic adolescents between 8 - 15 years old, especially those who wear cleats for their activities. Males tend to be more affected than females.

Treating Sever’s Disease

Fortunately, Sever’s Disease is not a serious condition that requires surgical intervention. Resting, icing, stretching, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines can provide some relief. The pain should subside after a couple of days. If the pain persists, the child should be examined by a podiatrist to check for a more serious condition.

Severe cases may require a walking cast or boot, or the use of orthotic insoles or footwear.