4 Ways to Help Heel Pain in Kids

4 Ways to Help Heel Pain in Kids

By Jackson Tisdell

Podiatrist and Strength and Conditioning Coach

Do your kids complain of sore heels during or after playing sport? You might have been told that this is Severs Disease? Don’t worry, it most certainly is NOT a “disease”, and rather an overuse type of injury. It is relatively common in active kids (soccer, netball, football, basketball, hockey players etc), and there are solutions for it!

Why do kids get Severs?

The reason this injury occurs is because the heel bone (calcaneus) in kids is still developing. There is a growth plate that separates two separate sections of the bone, which fuses together as the child develops.

Before 14-15 years of age, the growth plate remains open, and the bone cells are relatively immature. The blood supply within the bone may also be compromised as it is developing. This means that their capacity to cope with repetitive stress from running and jumping activities isn’t as strong as in adults, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Why do some kids get Severs and others don’t?

This is a great question, and something medical professionals are still trying to figure out! What we do know is that there are multiple individual factors that contribute to an injury in children, and all the factors that are causing your child to be in pain will be different to the next. A podiatrist may look at things such as strength, flexibility, coordination, walking and running technique (biomechanics), footwear (what runners, school shoes and football boots they are wearing), the amount of sport they are playing, on what days of the week and to what level of intensity, along with much more!

How to get pain relief for Severs!

The condition does resolve with resting from sport, so managing workloads to the best of our ability will be helpful… although realistically this isn’t always an option! We need to keep kids active in their sport, as not doing sport because of an injury impacts on their social and physical health. Other things besides from stopping playing sport that may give some immediate relief include icing the area, or using over the counter anti-inflammatories as directed by a pharmacist.

How to fix Severs for good!

This comes down to figuring out what your child’s individual contributing factors are, and addressing those (what we call “getting to the bottom of the injury”). This may include but not limited to:

1. Improving footwear– a podiatrist will be able to recommend which shoes are most appropriate for your child to reduce the impact to the heel

2. Foot orthotics– customised orthotics to reduce the amount of stress going through the heel with running and jumping may be necessary for your child to wear in their shoes depending on the severity of their pain

3. Strengthening and mobility programs- improving the strength of the foot, ankle and lower limbs is always good idea in injury prevention, and we’ve found this really helpful for many cases of Severs. There is often quite a few bridges that we need to gap between doing some simple calf stretches, and being able to get through a full week of training and playing sport. You can’t go wrong getting strong!

4. Load management programming- a podiatrist will be able to help you to manage your child’s training program long term, to ensure recovery of symptoms but also prevention of recurrence, and contributing to their overall athletic development!

In minor cases you can expect a rather quick recovery of Severs. If it is something that your child has been struggling with for a while now you may need more individualised care and a rehab plan to stick to! This is especially important at the moment as sports start to return after the latest lockdown, we often see a spike in injury rates.

If this has resonated with you then you will be glad to know we have created a tested system that gets results by focusing on the very important area of individualised management!

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