Figuring out what's hurting your kids' feet can be tough. They aren't always great about describing their pain. (And that's why I teach parents and grandparents warning signs of kids' foot problems.)
In the summer, it's more important than ever to get kids walking comfortably. Especially if your child is heading to day or sleep away camp. Because, while camp days offer our kids so much carefree fun, camping can also cause big problems for developing feet? Why is that the case? And what can we do about it?
Read on for tips from your kids' podiatrist in Houston. I'll show you how to protect your child’s feet during and after their camping days.
Kids' Foot Problems That Can Lead to Pain
Any child can develop foot or ankle pain. But if you notice your child's toes turn inward when they walk or run, (called pigeon-toed) they may have a higher risk.
Now, many toddlers outgrow this condition. But you should see me right away if your child's toes turn in while he or she walks. Because, in certain cases, we'll need to correct the problem to protect normal development.
Why Do Kids Start Walking Pigeon-toed?
There are several reasons why kids' feet may turn inward when they walk.
Changes in foot bones: Everybody has metatarsal bones in their forefoot. But if one of those bones points inward, we call that metatarsus adductus. And this can lead to pigeon-toed walking.
Another bone deformity can also leave your child pigeon-toed. But it has to do with the tibia, or shinbone. If this bone twists even a little, called tibial torsion, it can turn toes inward during walking.
Guess what? Your child's femur bone can also affect his or her gait. If there's a femoral anteversion, when the thigh bone turns forward and in, this can also impact the way kids walk. When the femoral bone is involved, you'll probably notice other changes in your child's walk. Aside from pigeon-toed steps, he or she may also appear knock-kneed.
Symptoms of Pigeon-toed Walking
A pigeon-toed walker heading to summer camp is already at a disadvantage. Why is that the case? Well, walking with your toes turned inward can make your calf muscles feel tight. It can leave you with an aching feeling on the outer edges of your feet. And it can lead to knee pain as well as foot pain.
Fortunately, most kids leave pigeon-toed walking behind well before they head to summer camp. (Usually before their fifth birthday.) But if the condition persists, or is causing pain, come see me to help them feel better. Because "growing pains" aren't a thing in my practice. And I firmly believe that kids should never have to wait to outgrow their foot pain.
Correcting Pigeon-Toed Walking In Houston, TX
Like I said, most kids outgrow this gait by age 4. But if they don't, or if they're hurting before that age, I can help. Here are some ways we treat this condition in my office.
1. Physical therapy. We can review exercises that will stretch out your child's lower leg and foot muscles to reduce pain. At the same time, we'll go over moved that can strengthen their hip and leg muscles, which may improve their gait.
2. In some cases, pediatric orthotics or braces can help your kids' walk in a proper position. At the same time, these supportive devices can reduce their pain during movement, even during active days at summer camp.
3. In rare cases, pigeon-toed walkers may need surgery. But that's rare, and usually needed only for children with rotated tibia bones. Still, if that's what your child needs to feel better, we'd rather find out sooner than later.
Protecting All Kids' Feet at Summer Camp
Treating underlying conditions like pigeon-toed walking is an important way to keep kids feet happy at camp. But even healthy feet can take a beating during long, active camp days. So following these five tips will prevent kids' foot pain this season.
- Invest in good-quality running shoes for your child. Make sure they come with lots of support and cushioning. After all, with all the walking, running and hiking campers do, their feet need the protection. And remember that open-toed shoes of any kind are a real no-no. They'll leave kids toes and nails vulnerable to crushing, bumps and all the dirt and germs they'll find at camp.
- Check your kids’ feet for warts or athlete’s foot, as these infections can spread to other campers like wildfire in shared showers and on pool decks. (You should definitely do this again when camp is over. Because these are two of the most common foot problems you'll expect to see once kids come home from summer camp.)
- Pack lots of cotton socks for your camper, and make sure they know to always wear socks with their sneakers. Not only will doing so help prevent blisters, it will also give kids a moisture-absorbing layer between their skin and their shoes to help prevent fungal growth. Even if your child is just going to day camp, consider sticking an extra pair of socks in his or her backpack every day. Otherwise, think about choosing sweat-wicking athletic socks, since these can prevent moisture from building up at all.
- When applying sunscreen, don’t forget to include the tops of your child’s feet if he or she is wearing sandals, as well as the delicate skin on the front of the ankles and lower legs.
- Tell your child never to share shoes with friends, because any germs or fungus living in the shoe can be passed along from child to child.
- Tell your kids to always check their laces—untied shoestrings can be a major tripping hazard and nothing can ruin a summer like a sprained or broken ankle.
Summer is the time of year when kids get to spend the whole day outdoors, playing, swimming and having a blast, but it’s hard to do that if their feet hurt. If your child has any foot pain this season (or any time of year) schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider so he or she can get back to the business of being a kid!