Foot Conditions A-Z
Children’s Foot Conditions
Many of the foot conditions described in the main foot conditions section of our website can appear in children; however, they also have a few of their own. Following are some fairly common foot conditions and anatomic anomalies seen in children. They can be corrected if identified and addressed early enough:
Calcaneal apophysitis (also called Sever’s Disease) – As a child’s feet grow, the heel’s growth plate can become painfully inflamed. The condition, which usually affects children between 8 and 14 years old, happens because the calcaneus (heel bone) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate in the back of the heel and too much repetitive stress on the area (largely as a result of participation in various sports) causes inflammation. This condition is more common in boys than in girls, but an increasing incidence in girls may be linked to more sports participation. Preventive strategies include choosing supportive and protective shoes that are appropriate for the sport or activity the child engages in, avoiding obesity, limiting the use of cleated athletic shoes and avoiding excessive training or activity that exceeds the child’s abilities.
Ingrown Toenail – Because children’s feet grow rapidly in the first five years of age, they often wear shoes that are too small. This, along with cutting nails incorrectly, is the primary cause of ingrown toenails. A foot health professional can treat ingrown toenails. To help prevent them, make sure children’s shoes are properly fitted, and toe nails are cut and trimmed correctly.
Intoeing (Toeing in) – It is normal for babies’ toes to point slightly outward. If a child is born with feet turned inward, learning to walk may be more difficult. This condition can often be corrected with stretching exercises to straighten the feet. In some cases, casts may be used to place the baby's feet in a normal position. A podiatrist or orthopaedic physician can address the issue of toeing in.
Metatarsus Adductus - This is a condition in which the forefoot turns inward. The front of the foot is bent or angled in toward the middle of the foot, while rear foot and ankles are normal. It is one cause of intoeing. About half of children with metatarsus adductus have the problem in both feet. It is thought to develop primarily because of factors that occur inside the womb. These include the child’s position inside the womb, primarily when the child’s head is up (breech position), and situations in which the mother does not produce enough amniotic fluid. It is fairly common, occurring in about one of every 1,000 live births. 85 to 90% of metatarsus adductus cases resolve without treatment by one year of age, but it is always wise to consult a physician or foot care specialist to discuss any treatments that might be required.
Pediatric flat foot - Babies and toddlers often appear to have flat feet, since the arch does not form until they start walking. Usually, that appearance will diminish and go away completely as the child begins to stand and walk. If it does not, a foot health specialist can help by prescribing orthotics or other methods.
Plantar Warts – Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, and typically occur on the plantar aspect (sole) of the feet, although they can occur on other areas of the feet, as well. They can go very deep and are likely to be painful, affecting a child’s ability or willingness to walk or run. Plantar warts can be successfully treated by a foot health professional, or they may disappear without treatment. The best prevention is for children not to go barefooted.
Pamela Sass, MD, and Ghinwa Hassan, MD, Lower Extremity Abnormalities in Children, American Family Physician Journal, 68(3):461-468, August, 2003, accessed at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0801/p461.html#afp20030801p461-c1
Reviewed by: Robert P. Thompson, C.Ped, IPFH Scientific Advisory Board
Last updated: June 19, 2015