Foot Pain and Youth Athletes

General Health & Wellness • May 11, 2021

Foot Pain and Youth Athletes

“My feet hurt!” This is not an uncommon complaint in youth athletes of all different sports.  Most kids that participate in sports will experience foot pain at some point.  The foot pain can vary from issues with shoes, level of activity, or the shape of the foot.  Plantar fasciitis is one type of foot pain that occurs most in adolescent athletes (and many active adults!) and can make it difficult to keep participating in sports.

Plantar fasciitis is irritation of a large band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot along the arch.  It typically feels like a pain or burning in the arch or at the heel.  The pain can be worst in the morning when athletes first hop out of bed or when they are more active with running or jumping sports.  Certain athletes are at higher risk for plantar fasciitis.  Those with high arches or tight calf muscles tend to have more issues with plantar fasciitis, but sometimes just increasing activity at a fast rate without much preseason conditioning can also cause this to happen.

What can you do if your child starts having issues with plantar fasciitis?

  • Icing: Icing the bottom of the foot can be great for pain relief. The best thing to do is freeze a disposable water bottle filled with water.  Then you can roll the bottom of your foot back and forth on the bottle.  It will ice and stretch it at the same time!
  • Stretching: Stretching the calf, Achilles, and bottom of the foot is helpful. Tight muscles definitely contribute to the pain, so getting them stretched out will help with pain relief as well.  Physical therapy will often be recommended if pain persists.  The physical therapist can help with the stretching and teaching proper technique.
  • Anti-inflammatories: Ibuprofen or Aleve as needed periodically (taken with food) can help temporarily or if the pain really flares.
  • Nighttime splints: Wearing splints that keep your child’s foot flexed up at night can help with morning pain. Our feet naturally fall into a downward position, making things tighten up, and the first steps can be painful.  This will keep it stretched at night to help get rid of that morning stiffness.
  • Orthotics (shoe inserts): Those athletes that have high arches can often benefit from shoe inserts. It will help pad the arch so that it hurts less with running and walking.

Sometimes the pain can get severe and will require more intervention (like a walking boot).  Be sure to contact your doctor if the pain becomes more severe because X-rays may be required to look for something more.  Keeping your feet healthy is key to keeping your young athlete active!