Athletic Foot Care for Kids
If you happen to be the parent of an active kid—or maybe more than one—you know there’s no slowing them down! Even if they’re not currently in the middle of a school or travel sports league, they’re no doubt still running and playing at full tilt, with their friends or even on their own.
On balance, that’s a good thing—we want our kids to love physical play, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, and with any luck tire themselves out so they can go to bed on time! But it may also lead to injuries or infections in their feet and ankles if they aren’t careful.
And of course, kids don’t always know what to do and aren’t always going to tell you if they have a problem, especially if it makes them feel embarrassed or they’re afraid you’ll pull them off the field. So as a parent, you may need to be extra observant and provide good guidance and instruction.
You’ll also need to know when it’s time to take them in to see one of the pediatric foot and ankle sports medicine experts at Comprehensive Foot Centers, P.A.
Best-Case Scenario: Avoiding Injuries in the First Place
Kids are a resilient bunch, and they tend to heal quickly. But that certainly doesn’t make them invincible! Here are a few ways you can help them maintain healthy, pain-free feet and ankles:
- Take them in for a pre-season physical. Before the next season starts, get your kid checked out by a physician. Most likely, everything will be fine. But sometimes the doctor may identify areas of concern. Usually this doesn’t mean your child can’t play—it just means you’ll be better prepared to manage that risk appropriately. It’s a win-win.
- Get them the right pair of shoes. Children should have an appropriate pair of athletic shoes, cleats, skates, etc. that fit correctly and are sport-specific—meaning they’re designed to handle the physical rigors of the sport your child will be playing. To make sure you get the fit right, take your child to an athletic shoe store and always measure both feet before trying anything on. Go toward the end of the day (when feet are a little swollen), and make sure you test the fit with the correct pair of socks, too!
- Consider getting a second pair, if the situation calls for it. Especially if your child is going to be playing multiple days in a row and will be using their shoes for a large percentage of the year. This will allow you to rotate shoes, which not only preserves their lifespan but also allows them to dry out between uses.
- Replace old shoes. Last season’s shoes may not be good to go, either because your child has grown out of them or they are too worn down to provide the necessary grip or shock absorption. Also, do not buy used shoes or accept hand-me-downs. They are likely already “conformed” to a different set of feet, which will create pressure points and pain. They may also harbor fungus!
- Check the treads. Before you toss those old sneakers in the trash, check for uneven wear patterns on the soles. In general, you should see most wear relatively evenly across the heels and balls of the feet. If, however, you notice excessive wear concentrated along the inside or outside edge of the shoe, it may indicate a structural issue or gait abnormality. These things can lead to greater incidence of future pain and injury, so you should get them checked out.
- Encourage them to play different kinds of sports. Over-specialization often burns kids out emotionally, but it often isn’t good for them physically either—too much stress on the same muscle groups and body parts, over and over again can eventually cause problems. Even if they’re really into a single, specific sport, you can still encourage them to get exercise in other ways during their off days. Things like swimming and riding a bicycle are great choices because they’re very low impact on the feet and ankles.
- Teach good hygiene. As the name suggests, athletic kids are a magnet for athlete’s foot. You can add things like warts and ingrown toenails to that list, too. Make sure your child is washing their feet every day, keeping their toenails neatly trimmed (without cutting too short or rounding the corners), changing socks and shoes if and when they get sweaty, and protecting their feet with sandals or shower shoes when walking in the locker room.
Keeping an Eye Out for Signs of Pain
Now, despite your best efforts, it may be the case that your child does develop a painful foot or ankle injury. Sometimes these situations are obvious, like an ankle sprain or broken bone. However, when pain is related to chronic overuse—such as heel pain or shin splints—it may not be as noticeable, and your child may be more inclined to shrug it off or try to hide it from you.
Obviously, if your child comes to you complaining about foot or ankle pain, you should take that very seriously. That is a clear sign that something is very likely wrong.
However, you may have to do some “detective work” on your own if your child is hesitant to come to you with problems. Be on the look out for signs that they are slowing down, limping, or limiting their activities in a way that they normally would not.
Also, please do not underestimate an injury. Don’t assume that, as long as your child can bear some weight, they should be able to “walk it off.” That’s a great way to turn a minor ankle sprain from something that could have been treated fully at home to something that will cause longer-lasting repercussions.
Our Services for Young Athletes
At Comprehensive Foot Centers, P.A., our expert podiatric physicians love working with active kids! We understand how frustrating injuries can be, and how much your child just wants to get back to playing with their friends and teammates. So we’ll do everything in our power to make sure he or she gets back in the game quickly and safely.
Obviously, that includes careful and thorough diagnostic examinations, so we can correctly ascertain not only the type and severity of the injury, but also the underlying root causes. This is a crucial step toward customizing a treatment plan that will work best for your child’s needs and athletic goals.
But we also want to help prevent injuries, too! So we’ll be glad to give you and your child advice on how to train, what shoes to buy, and other important information. Make sure you take in your child’s athletic shoes for us to examine—there is a lot we may be able to learn from them!
We may also prescribe orthotics, which can help address any structural or gait abnormalities your child may be struggling with. The right pair of orthotics will not only help eliminate pain and reduce the risk of future injury, but may even help your child play better, too!
The important thing to keep in mind, though, is that you should schedule an appointment at the first sign of trouble. Maybe it’s only a minor injury that you can treat at home. But if you don’t treat it properly, it could become a nagging injury, or even develop chronic instability or post-traumatic arthritis!
If foot or ankle pain is keeping your child off the field, give Comprehensive Foot Centers, P.A. a call today at (816) 455-1155. We have six convenient locations—three each in Missouri and Kansas—to best serve your family.