Simple at-home checks help spot foot problems
Back to school season is getting underway, and one Northern Virginia foot and ankle surgeon has some advice for area parents.
Take five minutes to inspect your children's feet for problems that could sideline your son or daughter from sports or other activities.
Steven Gordon, DPM, FACFAS, is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons with offices in Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg. He says parents should look for these warning signs:
Do the bottoms of the child’s shoes show uneven wear patterns?
Does the child walk irregularly? Is one leg longer than the other or do feet turn in or out excessively?
Do preschoolers walk on their toes?
Does the child often trip or stumble?
Does the child complain of tired legs, night pains and cramping?
"Following this checklist can uncover common problems like ingrown toenails to more serious problems like flat feet," says Dr. Gordon "If your child's shoe is worn on the big toe side of their foot, it could be a sign of poor arch support or flat feet."
Dr. Gordon says parents can spot several potential foot problems by observing how their kids walk.
"If you find out one of your child's legs is longer than the other, heel lifts may be required to restore proper balance," he says.
Early intervention can prevent scoliosis, a curvature of spine, later in life.
Sometimes younger children toe-walk because of tightness in their Achilles tendon. Dr. Gordon says that can happen when toddlers spend too much time in walkers.
"A foot and ankle surgeon can recommend stretching exercises that can be fun for small children and help prevent lower back pain as they get older," he says.
For older children beginning college, heel pain and shin splints can plague freshmen not used to walking long distances across campus to attend classes.
"We see students every autumn complaining about pain from walking so much every day," says Dr. Gordon. "For most students, daily stretching and proper walking shoes can solve the problem. If there are foot deformities like hammertoes, surgery may be advised to make walking more comfortable."
Dr. Gordon says "growing pains" are a myth.
"If your kids complain about tired legs, heel pain or leg or foot cramps at night, consider that a warning sign and see a doctor," he says. "Leg and foot pain can indicate flat feet or other disorders that are easier to treat the earlier they're diagnosed."
Dr. Gordon says children with flat feet are at risk for arthritis later in life if the problem is left untreated.
Contact Dr. Gordon at (703) 437-6333 for more information on children's foot problems, or visit the ACFAS consumer Web site, FootHealthFacts.org.