Taking care of common kids’ foot complaints
While most parents worry about the health of their child’s eyes and teeth, many overlook the state of their kids’ feet. Feet are amazing; not only do they enable us to stand tall and move, they support our body weight and act as shock absorbers, in turn protecting our ankles, knees, hips and spine.
In young children the foot is pliable to allow it to develop, which means taking care of feet during the first few years of a child’s life is vital.
Recognising common foot complaints can help ensure that action is taken to address the problem and ensure your child’s feet continue to develop in a healthy way.
Ingrown toenails are common with multiple causes. Widespread causes can include clipping the nails too short, cutting or picking at the edges of the nail, trauma to the nail due to kicking sports, excessively sweaty feet and pressure from footwear. All of these events can create a sharp edge on the nail, which can pierce the skin and lead to an ingrown toenail.
The symptoms of an ingrown toenail (onychocrytosis) can include a sore toe, pain at one side of the toenail and, in severe cases, a pus-filled discharge. In most cases it’s usually the big toe that’s affected.
Closed-toe shoes are likely to increase the intensity of the pain and, if left untreated, it’s common for the toenail to become infected making it difficult to walk and particularly painful to play sport.
To treat an ingrown toenail start by soaking the foot daily in warm, salty water, gently patting dry and applying a topical antiseptic. If possible, refrain from wearing enclosed shoes.
If the issue does not resolve within a couple of days it may require treatment by a podiatrist. This is a simple procedure that involves removing the small, sharp portion of nail causing the grief and dressing the nail to protect against infection. It usually takes minutes.
In acute cases nail surgery may be required.
In infants flat feet is common because they have a fat pad under the foot that hides the developing arch. By about the age of eight, the foot arch becomes apparent. Yet some children never develop an arch and this is called ‘flat feet’.
Flat feet or pronated feet (foot and ankle roll inwards) can be hereditary or due to muscle length and tone. In some instances the condition causes no pain or discomfort but in other cases flat feet or over pronated feet can cause pain in multiple areas of the body including the foot itself, shins, knees, lower back and Achilles tendons.
A podiatrist can help treat flat feet using orthotics, which hold the feet in their correct position and help relieve the associated pain. A detailed biomechanical analysis is conducted to diagnose which type of orthotics is best (there are many!).
In addition to orthotics, a podiatrist can advise on other measures that can be taken as part of a multi-pronged treatment plan. This may include stretching, strengthening exercises or deep connective tissue massage. Bare in mind that being overweight or wearing poor footwear can contribute to the symptoms of flat feet.
Warts can be the bane of a parent’s life because they are so easy to contract, yet notoriously difficult to get rid of.
Often mistaken for corns, plantar warts appear as small (less than 5mm) rough, flat bumps on the bottom of the foot—usually on the underside of the toes, heel or forefoot. Some plantar warts have little black dots in the centre. This is caused by small blood vessels.
Warts are the result of a virus, so they are easily transferred to other children and adults and are particularly common in swimming pools, gyms, communal showers and other places that involve water, warmth and bare feet.
There’s a plethora of treatments for plantar warts but many are lengthy and not always successful. If over-the-counter non-prescription medicines don’t work, you can try a prescription medication such as salicylic acid or cryotherapy, which involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen.
Alternatively, your local podiatrist can use laser treatment or a small instrument to remove the wart. To prevent future plantar warts, avoid letting your child go barefoot in high-risk places such as public showers and outdoor swimming pools.
Want to know more about taking care of kids’ feet? Visit: mykidsfootdoctor.com.au.
Got a question? Ask Dr Foot
A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care is one of Sydney’s leading foot and ankle clinics. Principal podiatrist and founder of A Step Ahead Dr Brenden Brown (AKA Dr Foot) has been taking care of people’s feet for more than 20 years. With a background in sports medicine and having served as a former president of the Australasian Podiatry Council, Brenden is a wealth of information when it comes to foot and ankle care.
Does your child need to see a podiatrist?
Are growing pains causing your child discomfort?
Growing Pains- More than just pain from growing – A case study
Sam is 10-years-old. He’s a great kid who loves being active, but there’s a problem and it’s getting worse. Sam plays football in winter and, in summer, he’s a cricket fanatic. Apart from these regular sports he’s running about at school and is, yes your average Aussie kid!
Sam’s mum and dad brought him into A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care because, despite being a very happy and active kid, Sam is waking up a couple of nights a week with pain in his lower legs. When he wakes he wants his mum to rub his legs because they ache and are sore. Sam’s mum Beth has used heat packs and paracetamol which does take the pain away after a while but, as Beth says, “They aren’t fixing the cause”.
A key factor is that fact Sam’s parents recognised that the pain sometimes came on in the night after Sam had quite active days, like sports days or family activities with lots of walking.
Visiting the GP, Physio and Dr Google
Sam’s parents took their son to a GP who sent them to see a Physiotherapist. While the physio was nice and showed Sam some stretching and did a couple of massages, these again helped at the time but didn’t stop the problem from coming back. After chatting to the GP their opinion was that this was “Just growing pains”—something Sam would have to get used to, and that he would simply “Grow out of it”. Frustrated with a fantastic but upset little boy, Sam’s parents felt they needed another opinion.
Sam’s mum Beth jumped onto Dr Google and found herself even more confused. Some parents were recommending vitamin supplements, others recommended oils and others suggested all kinds of home remedies. She then found herself on Facebook asking other parents for help. This is where a friend of Beth’s recommended our practitioners at A Step Ahead Foot and Ankle Care.
Finally some answers
When our practitioners assessed Sam it became pretty clear there was more than just some kind of phantom pain going on. We undertook a detailed walk and run assessment, along with some measurements and testing on Sam’s muscles. Nothing was invasive and everything we do is done in a fun, friendly and non-confronting environment. After a short while we established that Sam’s feet were rolling in a lot and his arches where a little flat. In essence Sam had pretty poor foot posture. What this meant is that the muscles in Sam’s lower legs were over working to try and give his poor foot posture support.
This meant that a big day on his feet, like a family outing, a busy day at school or doing sports caused his muscles to work even harder. This led to them getting sore, not necessarily at the time of the injury, mostly at night several hours after the muscles had rested.
Helping fight “growing pains”
To help Sam we gave him a custom-made pair of orthotic insoles. These are made from a soft material so are very comfortable to wear but provided support for the rolling of his ankle. We took a 3D scan of Sam’s foot and video recorded his walking patterns using our specialised assessment software. The orthotics are then designed using our computer-aided design software. Next step is to make the orthotics, which is done in our on-site Orthotic laboratory by our technicians and overseen by our podiatrist.
After fitting his new orthotics into a new pair of runners that we recommended, Sam headed on his way feeling comfortable to return in a couple of weeks. We prescribed some stretching to work with his orthoses and suggested that we may need to follow this up with a specialised massage to relax his muscles as his orthoses took over and began doing their job.
A couple of weeks later a very relieved set of parents and Sam returned to our clinic. In a little over two weeks the orthoses had started to do their thing. Sam had only had pain in his legs once since starting to wear his orthoses and this was after a very big day, his school athletics carnival! After only a couple of weeks we expected this to decrease so we asked them to return in another month at which time they reported Sam to be pain free!! Sam’s parents also reported that he was much more comfortable at sport as well. They were overjoyed; they had their happy, healthy little boy back!
Growing pains ARE TREATABLE in most cases. While many well-meaning health practitioners may say you have to wait and outgrow growing pains, there are alternatives. Our practitioners have had the pleasure of helping many kids with this same problem. It’s what we love to do! Helping kids become pain free, happy, healthy and active is a privilege. If you would like to help your little one to become pain free, please give our helpful reception team a call on +61 9673 2987 or 4732 2007. You can also see find us on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/podiatristsydney
- Needing a pair of orthotics?
- Heard mixed messages on how effective they are?
- Aren’t they all the same anyway?
If you’ve ever even CONTEMPLATED getting orthotics – read this first!
Let me start by answering a question that goes through almost all of my patients minds at some point – nope, orthotics are definitely NOT all the same and when the right orthotic is properly designed for my patients foot using the right materials and design skills that come from years of experience (and very honestly, learning from previous mistakes that others are still making today), yes they ABSOLUTELY do alleviate foot, ankle and low-er limb pain.
In fact, orthotics couldn’t be more different – and in many ways, they should be! Let me explain while answering a few concerns I often hear:
- Are my orthotics going to be like my pair from my previous podiatrist?
- I know someone that has had orthotics before but they didn’t help him?
- What do orthotics actually do?
Let me start in answering these with the first and most important point:
The way your orthotics look and how effective they are are dependent entirely on the skills and preferences of your podiatrist! Yes – your specific podiatrist alone dictates how they are made and using the resources, materials and skills they have available at any point in time. If your podiatrist wants to heat-mold a pre-made, soft, thin orthotic and add a colourful harder piece and call that a custom-made orthotic, then that’s what you get. If you get plaster-cast and the cast gets sent to Canada for a firm, plastic-like device to come back, then that’s the orthotic you get.
What does this mean? Simply and unfortunately put, you may receive a lower quality product (often associated with a cheaper price) that claims to do the same thing, but often fails to produce the same results (pain relief!) and tends to have a shorter shelf-life. Think of it as buying make-up (clearly, this is written from a female perspective). You’re after a lipstick. Sure, you can buy an $8 lipstick from pretty much anywhere, but we know it will never compare to buying a Mac lipstick, that you’ll love and keep using until the very very end.
So how do I know if my orthotics will be good? Don’t be afraid to ask! They should be more than happy to talk you through the process – I LOVE talking through our orthotic design and manufacture – from the extensive testing of the range of motion of your foot and ankle joints to muscle strength, foot posture index, video gait analysis and 3D laser scanning your foot! But that’s only the part you see – it all then collides when our principal podiatrist and founder, Brenden Brown, designs every single one of our patients orthotics (yes, over all of our clinics!) himself, using his 20 years of experience and the widest range of materials I’ve ever seen as a podiatrist. BUT THEN, our CAD/CAM milling machine actually mills out the base of your orthotic, all in our VERY OWN (and very exciting!) orthotic lab, and hand finished by our orthotic technicians! It’s safe to say that it’s a little more technical than sticking two bits of material together and naming it an orthotic, and FAR more effective.
Finally, think about what your orthotics do! Orthotics have a FUNCTIONAL purpose to alter the alignment of your foot, changing different pressures and strains over your muscles, bones, joints and exactly where you’re having your pain. They address the CAUSE of your lower limb problems to provide you with long-term relief, and when designed and created right, they do this VERY well.
Happy orthotic hunting!
Dr Nina Lansdowne
Podiatrist and Superstar Blog writer
Dr Nina , BB and a good looker who happens to be our patient!
Ingrown toe nails
Lisa had pain from an ingrown toenail for several months she felt she had tried everything including trying to remove the ingrown nail herself. A friend of hers told her just to cut a V into her toenail – which sadly didn’t work. She tried a shopping centre nail salon but they turned her away saying they could not help her. She also visited her GP who was some help and prescribed some antibiotics as by this time the nail had become a little pustulent. However while this cleared up the infection that had occurred it did not take away the pain for more than a day or so and she found that her problem returned a little while after her antibiotics ran out.
This ingrown toe nail requires treatment by a podiatrist
When Lisa visited our A Step Ahead foot and Ankle clinic her toe was red around the area where the nail meets the skin on the side of the toe. It became obvious that what had happened was that Lisa’s toe nail was quite ingrown and that the answer was to remove the offending piece of nail. By this time Lisa was quite upset and was worried about how painful it was going to be to remove the nail.
We offered Lisa the option of having a local anaesthetic injection but we assured her that our experience podiatrist see infected ingrowing nails several times daily. With this experience our practitioner are very good at removing these with little if any pain. In this instance Lisa opted to try without the anaesthetic injection. Within a couple of minutes the ingrown nail was removed from the infected area with little if any pain, yes as many people are Lisa was surprised at how painless and easy it was – this left Lisa wondering why she had waited so long?
We asked Lisa to keep a small bandage on the toe for another four days. Simply to keep the area dry and free of nasty bugs and bits getting into the area, as it was already red and inflamed when she arrived. A check up in two weeks found Lisa to be pain free! She reported it took about 24 hours to calm down and has been completely pain free since and she can now go back to wearing her high heels ……….. hmmmmm
Kids do much more than just go to school each week! What did your kids feet do this week?
Kids feet do much more than just 30 hours a week at school – they play handball – run races – play basketball – touch footy – practice ballet – play rugby – skip………. But are they ready to do all that activity and more?
Many times children won’t tell Mums and Dads about foot pain till its too late and it becomes a bigger problem.
- Growing pains
- Tripping and falling
- Wearing out shoes
- Tiring easily
These are all signs that something maybe wrong with your child’s feet. Having your child’s foot posture and walking patterns by our Podiatrist who can quickly and safely help to find pain free solutions.
Every year we get to treat hundreds of kids! We love it not only are we getting to meet and have fun with some pretty cool kids we get to see them become happy healthy and active again. We’d love to be able to help your family as well!