Is heel pain in kids just a ‘growing pain,’ or a bigger problem?

Q: My 10-year-old godson is pretty active, but has a significant increase in physical activity and running during football season. He’s fine during practices and games, but after he stops running, he has sudden pain in the back of his left ankle, the Achilles tendon area. It’s tender when pressed upon and painful when he walks, especially up a flight of stairs.
It improves slightly with ice and elevation. Should I be doing exercises with him to help strengthen it? His mother doesn’t think it’s serious enough to be evaluated by a doctor, because it seems to resolve itself over time… until after his next practice.
I hate seeing him in pain and I don’t want this to get progressively worse.

A: This orthopedic podiatrist located in Chicago’s West Loop (60661,) Roscoe Village (60618,) Elmhurst (60126) and Bartlett (60103) says…
He probably has calcaneal apophysitis, better known as Sever’s disease, which is a painful bone disorder that happens when there’s inflammation or swelling of the heel’s growth plate.
This is a common cause of heel pain for kids, especially youngsters who are active in sports. It’s most common during growth spurts that come during the two-year period of early puberty when kids grow rapidly, often between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.
In your godson’s case, he likely needs rest and should stop playing football until the issue resolves. He can return after three weeks if he’s pain-free.
In the meantime, gentle stretching of his calves may help.
Another option is taking him to a podiatrist who may be able to modify his shoe gear, which may also help. The doctors at Ankle N Foot Centers specialize in sports medicine and are experts in caring for kids at our five Chicagoland locations. We can offer custom orthotics or inserts if that’s what he needs.
Also consider that he may also be over training – coaches may not always be in tune with injuries.
Keep in mind that pain isn’t never normal — especially in kids. “Growing pains” aren’t normal, either.

Hope this helps & Good Luck!

Ankle N Foot Center docs & staff

For more information about our locations, hours and services, visit!

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