It’s one of the rights of passage as a youngster playing sports for the first time. Kids as young as 5 or 6yrs old thru adolescence putting on their cleats or spikes shoes for sports like little league baseball, softball and soccer. What a tradition!
In general, this is not unhealthy, but problems with heels and ball of the foot are common in growing kids. There is a large growth center called Calcaneal Apophysis on the bottom and back of the heels that is especially susceptible to stress and pounding until it matures to solid bone at about 13-15yrs old. There are also growth centers under the ball of the foot at the Metatarsals. Lots of running can aggravate these areas…. putting cleats and spikes right under them can make matters worse. Heels are the most common problem we see in sports podiatry with kids- a condition sometimes called Severs Disease, (a term I don’t like because it’s not a disease, it’s a syndrome or condition).
We tell parents to omit cleats or spikes if their kids have any history of heel pain. Instead switch to multiple nub shoes or cross training sneakers and consider soft heel cups or cushions. Persistent or ongoing problems are often related to foot type (flat or high arch), and in many cases a podiatrist can help. We’ve seen great success with orthotics when these problems persist.
Bottom line- keep your kids’ feet comfortable and be aware of these concerns so our young athletes can safely “stay in the game”.
Dr. Bob Weil is a sports podiatrist & hosts the popular live radio show “The Sports Doctor”, Weds, 3-4pm CST on Healthylife.net