If your 4 year old kid is complaining of foot pain, you may be inclined to think it is “growing pains.” Foot pain in a 4 year old child could be due to a number of things. It is always hard to discern with them, since they may not be able to fully communicate how they are feeling, or if something happened. It is good to know, as a parent, the different things that could cause foot pain. This article explains some of the most common causes, how you can help relieve foot pain in a child, and when you should contact your child’s doctor.
What Could It Be If Your 4 Year Old Complains of Foot Pain?
A 4 year old complaining of foot pain may in fact be just growing pains. However, there are some structural issues with feet that can appear in childhood. These are some of the causes why a child would complain their feet hurt at such a young age:
1. Growing Pains
Your child may just be having classic “growing pains.” Growing pains can appear as early as age 3 to 4. It will appear for a while, then go away, returning around the early teen years. Growing pains are simply muscle pains from things like playing, climbing, running around, and being very active. The muscles are already being stretched from growth, so increased activity in children can put added stress on them.
Symptoms: Muscles aches and cramps, pain in the feet and legs, restless legs when sleeping, and throbbing sensations.
2. Flat Feet
We are all born with flat feet. Our arches develop around the ages of 3 to 4. Toddlers tend to walk barefoot more than with shoes, and this causes the bottom of the foot to contact the ground when they are walking. While it shouldn’t really cause foot soreness, if you have an overly active toddler, it might cause them some foot pain. They may also have loose ligaments in their feet or hypermobility of the foot joints, two conditions that go along with chronically flat feet.
Symptoms: Achy feet, heel pain, pain on the top of the foot, and soreness to the soft bottom of the foot.
3. Sever’s Disease
Sever’s disease is a condition that affects the growth plate inside the heel. This plate forms cartilage at the end of the bone into new bone. Children with Sever’s disease experience intense pain as the heel bone grows. It is common in young children before the age of 13 to 15, and usually disappears after the age of 15.
Symptoms: Very intense heel pain with each growth spurt.
4. Foot Sprain
A 4 year old complaining of foot pain may have sprained their foot playing. This is the time when small children love to climb, jump, and run when they play, which can lead to injuries, and most often a twisted foot. Sprains don’t last very long, and your child may not even stop playing with this type of injury. However, they may complain of foot pain later in the day when they are quieted down.
Symptoms: Foot pain that is throbbing, swelling, bruising, and inability to bear weight.
5. Iselin’s Disease
Iselin’s disease causes children to feel pain on the outer areas of their feet. It gets worse with shoes that are too narrow, jumping too much, and going barefoot. It tends to be more common in children who “over pronate” and walk on the outside edge of their feet. It can also occur in kids who have feet that are very flat, or with very high arches which causes over-pronation or friction against the outside edge of the shoe. It may be misdiagnosed as a foot or ankle sprain, tendonitis, or even a fracture of the outside metatarsal.
Symptoms: Pain to the outside of the foot, redness, swelling, and uneven shoe wear (one side of the sole is flatter than the other).
6. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are not too common in young children under the age of 5 or 6, but occasionally they can happen in a younger child. They are most common in children who play sports at a young age that have impact on their feet. Figure skating, basketball, volleyball and any other sports that require landing on the feet are the most common. Even jumping from a bed or couch and landing wrong could cause a stress fracture in a foot.
Symptoms: Swelling on the top of the foot, pinpoint bruising at the site of the fracture, ankle pain, and unable to wiggle toes.
How to Help Your Baby
If you have a 4 year old complaining of foot pain, there are a few things you can do to help them feel better. These include:
- Proper Shoes. Make sure you get your child fitted for shoes. Many department stores and shoe stores have shoe sizing equipment to make sure your child’s feet are measured properly for length and width. For older toddlers age 3 and 4, high top shoes tend to give the most support on soft little feet.
- Rest and Ice. If your 4 year old is complaining of foot pain suddenly, you may be dealing with an injury. Try as best as you can to get them to rest with some ice on their foot. This may not sound like an easy task with a wiggly toddler, but even 5 minutes rest and icing is better than nothing. Turn on some favorite cartoons for them, and try this at naptime for better luck.
- Foot Rubs. Try giving your child a foot rub with some warmed olive oil. This will help loosen and soothe sore muscles. This works great at bedtime when foot pain may be at its peak, and will help them sleep better.
When to See a Doctor
A 4 year old complaining of foot pain may not be anything to worry about. If your child’s complaints become chronic over a few weeks’ time, it may be time to contact your child’s pediatrician to see what to do. The doctor may need to refer you to a podiatrist (foot specialist) for an evaluation.