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Posts for: August, 2016

August 26, 2016
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Heel Pain in Youth Athletes: A Warning Sign

Surgeon Urges Prompt Treatment for Growth Plate Injuries

 

 

(Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg, VA- 8/26/16) -- Indoors and outdoors, youth athletes stay active year-round in competitive sports, and for many of them heel pain has become “just another part of the game.” Foot and ankle surgeon, Steven Gordon, DPM, FACFAS, advises that when a child complains of heel pain, it should be diagnosed promptly because it may be a warning sign of a serious foot problem.  

 

Dr. Gordon, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, says heel pain occurs frequently in children ages 6 to 14 as their feet grow and the heel bone develops. “As children become more active in sports they increase their risk for growth-plate injuries and subsequent heel pain,” says Gordon. This is especially true at back-to-school time when surgeons see an increase in middle and high school athletes experiencing heel pain with football and soccer seasons simultaneously underway.  

 

“New bone forms in an area behind the heel, known as the growth plate, and cartilage is vulnerable to severe inflammation from strain or stress. With repeated stresses and strains from over activity, the heel becomes very painful,” Gordon explains.

 

Even though growth-plate trauma is the leading cause of heel pain in young people, Dr. Gordon says the condition can be difficult to diagnose. He cautions that parents should be concerned if a child has pain in the back or bottom of the heel, limps, walks on the toes, or seems to have difficulty participating in normal recreational activities. The condition is diagnosed by a thorough examination of the child’s feet and legs and possibly medical imaging tests to rule out other serious causes of heel pain, such as bursitis, tendonitis and fractures.

 

In most cases, mild or moderate heel pain can be treated successfully with shoe inserts to soften the impact on the heel, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching and physical therapy. In severe cases, the foot and ankle will be immobilized in a cast and, in some instances, surgery may be necessary.

 

Heel pain in young people often returns after treatment because the growth plate is still forming until the age of 14 or 15. However, the risk for recurrence can be lowered by choosing well-constructed shoes with good support and restricting use of spiked athletic shoes, especially on hard fields. It also is advised that young athletes avoid competition that exceeds their physical abilities.

 

If your child is experiencing heel or foot pain, call Dr. Gordon’s Reston Office at 703-437-6333, Manassas Office at 703-368-7166, and Leesburg Office at 703-777-2101 for an assessment.   


Shoe shopping for kids: A parent's guide to a year-round task

What is it about children's feet that make them seem like the fastest-growing part of their bodies? With back-to-school shopping behind you for another year, you might hope you can stop spending on shoes—at least until flip-flop season arrives with spring. But kids’ feet do grow year round, right along with the rest of them. In fact, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), a child’s shoe and sock sizes may change every few months. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are among the most important articles of clothing you’ll buy for your child at any time of year. Ill-fitting shoes can cause problems that range from minor blisters and discomfort to serious injuries and impaired development.

“A pair of well-made shoes can keep children safe from foot problems such as sprains and strains, both in class and on the playground,” says Steven Gordon DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and APMA member. “Unless your child complains of discomfort, you may not realize he or she needs new shoes. Parents need to be vigilant to ensure kids are wearing shoes that fit properly and provide the stability and support kids need.”

Conduct the time-honored toe test—using your thumb or forefinger to determine where the child’s big toe is inside the shoe—once a month. Inspect shoes regularly for signs of wear that could compromise their stability. When it’s time to buy children’s shoes, APMA has some guidelines for parents.

“Checking for three different aspects of a shoe’s design makes it easy for parents to distinguish which models are foot-friendly,” Dr. Gordon says.

APMA recommends parents perform a simple, three-step inspection on new shoes before buying:

  1. Look for a stiff heel. The heel counter should not collapse when pressed from both sides.
  2. Ensure the shoe bends at the toes, but nowhere else.
  3. Finally, make sure the shoe does not twist across the middle.

In addition, keep these tips in mind to help ensure kids are wearing comfortable shoes and practicing good foot health:

  • Take children with you when you buy their shoes and shop at the end of the day when feet are at their biggest. Every shoe fits differently, and allowing a child to have a say in the shoe-shopping process can help promote healthy foot care habits down the road.
  • Always buy for the larger foot. Feet are rarely the exact same size, so buy a shoe that fits the slightly larger foot.
  • Avoid shoes that require a “break-in” period to feel comfortable. Shoes should be comfortable immediately. Be sure your child tries on the shoes wearing whatever type of socks or tights he or she will use with them.
  • Never hand down footwear. Just because a shoe fits one child comfortably doesn’t mean it will fit another in the same way. Also, sharing shoes can spread athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
  • Whenever possible, purchase shoes at a shoe store staffed by well-trained shoe fitters. An experienced salesperson can help relieve worries over getting the proper fit.

For parents faced with kids’ changing tastes and opinions, navigating back-to-school shopping can be a harrowing process. Buy him the wrong backpack, and he’ll be the uncool kid on the bus. Pick out the wrong jeans for her, and she’ll be shamed by society. While neither scenario will cause kids any real harm, there is one area of back-to-school shopping where a wrong move could have health ramifications for kids—shoe shopping.

“Foot health is directly related to overall health, no matter your age,” says Steven Gordon DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Proper footwear is essential to foot health, so it’s important for parents to ensure kids go back to school with a good foundation on their feet. Shoes are one of the most important back-to-school purchases parents will make.”

Children’s feet change and grow with them, and parents may find they need to update their kids’ shoes and socks every few months to accommodate this growth. Shoes that don’t fit properly can irritate the feet and affect how well a child walks, runs, and plays.

APMA offers parents some advice for finding shoes that are good for kids’ feet and also live up to their exacting tastes:

  • Always buy new—never used—and never hand down footwear. Sharing shoes can spread fungi like athlete’s foot. What’s more, children’s feet are as unique as they are. A shoe that fits one child comfortably may not fit another child as well. Plus, shoes that have been worn tend to conform to the foot of the wearer and may be uncomfortable for anyone else to put on.
  • Test the shoe before allowing a child to try it on. Check for a stiff heel by pressing on both sides of the heel counter; it shouldn’t collapse under the pressure. Bend the shoe with your hands to ensure it will bend with your child’s toes; it shouldn’t be too stiff. Try twisting the shoe; it should be rigid across the middle and never twist in that area.
  • Go shopping together. Shopping with your child ensures you can have his or her foot measured professionally, and that your child can test the shoe for a proper fit, give you his or her opinion of it, and learn from you the finer points of buying a good shoe. “Kids who learn how to select a comfortable, supportive shoe may be less likely to make wrong footwear choices as adults, which could save them a lot of discomfort,” Dr. Gordon says.
  • Remember to shop for shoes later in the day when feet are at their largest, and always buy for the larger foot. Having your child’s feet measured will help identify which foot is larger. Additionally, remember to have your child wear the type of socks or tights he or she will most likely wear with the shoe.
  • Avoid buying shoes that need a “break-in” period. Footwear should be comfortable right away. Once the school year is underway, keep an eye on your child’s shoes—active kids may wear out footwear faster than adults. Be vigilant for signs of irritation, such as your child always wanting to remove one or both shoes. The footwear may no longer fit properly, especially if it’s been a few months since you bought the shoes.