We believe that children should be free to run, walk and play without pain holding them back. Our podiatrists work extensively with children aged 1-17 years to treat a range of foot and leg problems and support your child’s healthy development for the years to come.
While children’s feet may look like smaller versions of our own feet, they have a range of differences that make diagnosing the cause of their foot or leg pain – and the way we need to treat them – very different. Our podiatrists help children with a range of pains and conditions, focusing on relieving their immediate symptoms and then helping prevent the problem from recurring in the future. Some of the common conditions we see and treat include:
Flat feet are normal in young children as their feet are heavily padded as they learn to walk and their bones grow. Over time, as their muscles grow stronger and their fat pads thin, an arch will likely form. We expect to see an arch by the age of six or seven years. If no arch is present beyond this age, it is possible that your child naturally has a flat foot posture. Flat feet are not a problem on their own, but can be a problem when paired with aches or pains. This is as a flat foot posture can strain a range of muscles and tissues in the feet and legs, making them work harder than they would if a ‘normal’ arch was present. These strains can lead to injury and pain, which is why flat feet place a person at higher risk of developing a range of foot injuries or problems.
In-toeing (pigeon-toeing) is the position where one or both feet turn inwards, either mildly or severely, during walking. Out-toeing is the position where the foot faces outwards. Both in-toeing and out-toeing may be linked to the rotation of the shin bone (tibia), the thigh bone (femur), or something else - like the position of the foot in the womb. With all of the changes that children’s bodies go through in their first years of life, it is not abnormal for in-toeing and out-toeing to be seen up to the age of four or five. Beyond this, these variations in foot position can make a child’s gait less efficient and place more strain on their muscles, bones and joints, can make them more likely to trip and injure themselves, and can make participation in social sports more challenging and discouraging.
Knock knees describe a position where the knees turn and angle inwards to face one another, which means that they may knock against one another during walking. Bow legs describe an outwards bowing of the legs, where even if the feet are together, the knees remain separated and curved outwards.
While short-lived knock knees and bow legs may be a normal part of growth in younger children, if these conditions persist beyond the age of six, certain conditions should be investigated such as osteomalacia, rickets, Blount’s disease, non-healing knee injuries and more.
Growing pains are a treatable growth-related condition that affects specific parts of growing bones in kids called growth plates. As these growth plates are not as strong as regular bone, they are vulnerable to injury and overloading. Usually, this overloading is caused by muscles that attach near the growth plate and exert high forces on the bone. The three types of growing pains that we most often see and treat include:
Sever’s is the name for growing pains in the back of the heels. This heel pain often comes on during or after physical activity. Here, the affected growth plate is located at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) near where the Achilles tendon, the large cord-like tendon that attaches at the back of heel, attaches.
Osgood Schlatter’s is the name for growing pains at the knees. This occurs because the growth plate at the top of the shin bone (tibia) has been irritated by the pull of the patellar tendon, which comes down from the muscles at the front of your thighs (gastrocs), crosses the knee and kneecap, and attaches at the top of the shins. This produces pain and swelling below and around the kneecap, especially when bending the knee.
Iselin’s is the name for growing pains along the outer edge of the foot – specifically at that bony bump around the midfoot. This causes pain and swelling in the area, and it is caused by the growth plate that is present on your fifth metatarsal bone, which is likely irritated by a tendon called the peroneus brevis that attaches in the area.
Toe walking describes walking regularly on the balls of the feet, without the heel coming into contact with the ground. It is not uncommon to see this up to the age of three, where kids are still very much exploring walking styles and learning what feels comfortable for them.
While toe walking is a fun choice for some children, others may walk this way as a result of a permanently contracted Achilles tendon that makes it painful or difficult to place the heel on the ground. If your child is toe walking beyond the age of three, or they are complaining of any pain or discomfort while toe walking, we recommend bringing them in for an assessment.
Injuries sustained during sport can vary greatly, but given how active and mobile kids are and their tendency to go hard and fast or throw caution to the window, they are fairly common. These include muscle strains and sprains, tendonitis, fractures, dislocations and more.
With rapid changes in direction among accelerations and decelerations in sports, ankle sprains are a common injury in kids - and unfortunately can have lifelong consequences if not properly rehabilitated. Ankle sprains occur when the ankle is suddenly and forcefully rolled outwards (or inwards, though this is much less common), which strains the ligaments responsible for stabilising the ankle. While many people tend to shrug off ankle sprains and limit the use of the foot until the pain settles, improper ankle rehabilitation and failing to strengthen the ligaments can lead to chronic ankle instability, leaving the ankle in a permanently weakened state, and starting a vicious cycle that makes the child more vulnerable to repeated ankle sprains in the future.
Unlike regular fractures that happen due to sudden impact, stress fractures develop over time (often many months) through repetitive stress to a bone and so present as small, hairline cracks in the affected bone. Any activity or condition that results in excess pressure on a bone can lead to the development of a stress fracture. This includes:
Children’s podiatry treatment starts with a comprehensive assessment to understand exactly what is happening with the feet and legs and why. Don’t worry - we’re parents too, so make this process simple and enjoyable. During the assessment, we’ll look at how your child is walking (their gait), their foot and leg function, muscle strength and flexibility, their foot posture and coordination, and closely assess the area of concern. Once we have a diagnosis and have uncovered the causes of the problem, we can create a targeted treatment plan. Each plan is specific to the problem your child is experiencing, and may involve laser treatment, strengthening the feet and legs, a stretching program to address restricted movement, custom foot orthotics, gait plates, bracing, taping, changes to their footwear, gait retraining and more.
This depends entirely on what has been injured and how severe the injury is. A mild sprain may only require a couple of weeks of downtime, while a fracture may require months. We’ll be able to give you a more accurate estimate of time at your appointment, after we’ve examined the injury and have evaluated the best treatment options. You can be assured that we will offer all the innovative tools at our disposal to help your child recover quickly and effectively.
As parents ourselves, there’s a lot that can be said for our intuition. If you’re concerned, always bring your kids in. If there’s nothing wrong, you gain the assurance that everything is looking normal and on track. You also eliminate the risk of a condition getting worse before it becomes serious enough to be seen.
Yes! Most school shoes have removable liners for orthotics to be seamlessly inserted into – and we adjust the orthotics ourselves to ensure a perfect fit. This means that kids can be supported all day every day while they’re at school – and they can transfer their orthotics into their sports shoes after school.
Not usually, no. In fact, kids often have a much easier and faster time adjusting to their orthotics than adults as their feet are normally more flexible.
We have worked extensively with local Melbourne children’s sports teams to help with exactly this. By addressing the common causes of injuries early on (like tight or weak muscles), we can definitely reduce the likelihood of certain pains and problems developing through the season.
Absolutely – we understand kids. We have our own! We know that leaving a child with a comprehensive self-directed program is unlikely to yield the best results. Hence, our treatment usually combines hands-on care with easy home-based activities that are made to be simple and fun.