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Tips for Parents: How to Spot Kids' Foot Problems

Foot and ankle surgeons offer advice to help parents recognize conditions early.  

Just part of growing up vs. the sign of a problem—managing children's health and wellness is complicated for parents, who often struggle to know which signs and symptoms are temporary and which point to more serious concerns. As parents transition back to the regular routines of fall with school and sports, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons offers practical tips to help parents know what their children's feet are telling them. 

"While many pediatric foot problems resolve themselves with growth and time, there are clear signs that tell parents when their children need medical help," says Suneel Basra, DPM, FACFAS, a New Jersey-based foot and ankle surgeon and a Fellow member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Common pediatric foot problems can range from pediatric flat foot, toe walking, in-toeing and flat or high arches to tarsal coalitions and extra bone growth. While these conditions and their treatments are different, they share some common signs that show parents there is a problem that needs addressing by a foot and ankle surgeon:

  • Pain, swelling and redness that does not subside
  • Development of thick calluses in one area of the foot
  • Problems with the way your child walks (gait)
  • Shins or thighbones that appear to turn inward
  • Ankles that are weak or easily give out

"Checking a child's foot health during a routine physical is just as important as any other part of the exam. Pediatricians and foot and ankle surgeons need to work together to ensure these conditions do not affect a child's overall growth and development," continues Dr. Basra.

A variety of treatment options for these conditions is available that parents can evaluate in partnership with their healthcare team. Whether a less invasive approach, such as shoe modifications, orthotic devices and  physical therapy, or more intensive interventions, such as bracing, steroid injections or surgery, a foot and ankle surgeon can advise parents on which treatment offers the best long-term prognosis for their children.