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Activities and their Effects on Kids' Feet

Nursery and Beyond

From a young age, children attend nursery where they will have set  routines. Concerns tend to grow about the way a child walks, or unusual wear marks on shoes, such as on the inside or outside of the heel. With the onset of  primary school they will become more active: dance, gymnastics, and occasionally martial arts classes are undertaken. Once again, there may be problems associated with injury, but overuse begins to become a feature. Foot arch pain is not uncommon, particularly in children who have very low arches (flat footed), or are double jointed. They may awaken their parents during the night with distressing pains in their legs and feet. Often no organic cause is found for this problem, but children with a postural foot problem, often improve when treated with foot orthoses ( arch supports). The incidence and severity of pain is usually associated with the level of activity. If no improvement takes place in the short term, it is always advisable to investigate the problem further.

Child with flat feet
Child with flat feet

Late Primary and Secondary School

Growth begins to accelerate and the child reaches puberty during this phase. At the same time, sporting and athletic activities tend to increase and become more formalised. The child will also be more active during the school day and may travel further to school. There may also be activities in the evening for a particular interest or talent. This can result in foot and lower limb problems associated with excessive unaccustomed exercise.

Growth, possible weight gain, and increased exercise contrive to cause a wide range of painful foot and lower limb problems, that may be sports related. These complaints should always be taken seriously and a diagnosis made. Failure to recognise and treat these overuse problems can lead to long-term problems for the child, and an inability to reach their true sporting potential. Most problems are readily managed by your podiatrist, utilising a variety of methods.

Treatment may also require periods of rest and a change in everyday and activity footwear. Often the problem is easily solved with footwear advice alone. Always remember to wear the correct footwear for the individual sport. You wouldn’t play squash in stiletto heels, or tennis in football boots. Equally, different types of sneakers are required for different sports. Bare footed activities, e.g. karate, judo, while good exercise for the foot, can result in injury. They may also cause problems due to the foot having a relatively lower heel, from what it is used to during the day, as shoes are not being worn. This puts added strain on the arch of the foot and back of the lower leg.

Orthotics for flatfooted children
Orthotics for flatfooted children

Careful training and preparation are essential. If a child indulges in any form of activity, injuries will occur and there will be aches and pains from time to time. Children are no different from adults in this respect, but they tend to repair more quickly. Also, they will not rest due to an injury, and need to be managed and monitored carefully. Very young children may regard the problem as the norm and not complain. All aches and pains in children should be taken seriously and investigated professionally, particularly during periods of active growth.

 

Skin and Nail Problems

Children rarely suffer from corns or hard skin problems. However, they are prone to various skin problems. This often leads to the popular misconception that the main problems associated with children’s feet are athlete’s foot, plantar warts (fish eyes), sweaty feet, smelly feet, in-growing toenails and blisters. These conditions do exist and parents will often seek treatment and or advice because  they are either troublesome or anti-social. These conditions are often given low priority from a  health perspective, but they can become particularly troublesome and difficult to manage if inappropriately treated, and should always be treated with respect. It is very important that an accurate diagnosis is made before treatment is started.

Ill-fitting and inappropriate footwear is also a very common problem. An overview of the more common skin problems are explained below:

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete's foot in a child
Athlete’s foot in a child

This can be a problem at any age but is particularly prevalent during puberty. A fungus that enjoys a dark, warm and moist environment causes it. Athlete’s foot affecting the skin can also affect the nails causing them to look discoloured, thickened and crumbly. Therefore it should not be ignored. Good foot hygiene and the treatment of sweaty feet is also essential.

Plantar Warts (Fish Eyes)

Current thinking suggests that plantar warts (fish eyes), are left alone to resolve in their own time, if they are not particularly troublesome. Many are treated effectively by the simple measure of keeping them covered with a piece of tape which limits their spread. More radical treatment employs the use of caustics, salycic acid, cryosurgery and electrosurgery.

Sweaty and Smelly Feet

Sweaty feet are common in children, but it can be excessive. Care should be taken to change socks regularly, and be diligent with foot hygiene. Product and insoles are available particularly for smelly feet.

Child with an ingrown nail
Child with an ingrown nail

In-growing Toenails

These can be very painful and distressing, and require professional podiatry treatment, possibly even surgery.

Blisters

These are common with sweaty feet and back to school new shoes. If the skin is broken, an appropriate antiseptic protective dressing should be applied.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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