A few months ago, my youngest son, age 12, began to complain about his feet hurting a lot. I chalked it up to the proverbial “growing pains” and did not really think much about it, as he seemed to get around fine and the pain would come and go.
Over the next few weeks, he complained about the pain getting worse, so I arranged for him to visit the podiatrist. Upon examining my son’s feet, the doctor indicated that this is a common problem and that once my son finishes growing, it should go away.
Upon doing further research on the internet, it appears my son has Sever’s disease. Although the podiatrist did not refer to the condition as such, the symptoms my son has seem to parallel those I discovered through my research. I stumbled upon a page on Sever’s disease, which is a common cause of heel pain that occurs in children when the growth plate, which is the growing part of the heel, is injured. The foot is actually one of the first parts of the body to grow to full size. (I could have told you that! You should see the size of shoes my son now wears!) This typically happens in the early stages of puberty. During this time, the muscles and tendons cannot keep pace with the rapidly growing bones. As such, those muscles and tendons tighten up and the area around the heel is not as flexible as it was. When the child participates in any weight-bearing activity, the tight heel tendons can put excess pressure on the back of the heel injuring it, resulting in the condition known as Sever’s disease.
Children are most at risk for this condition in the early stages of puberty or in the early part of a growth spurt. It is common in girls ages 8-10 who are physically active and in boys ages 10 to 12 who are physically active. This made sense to me, as my son had just begun working out and had taken an interest in running for exercise.
Sever’s disease is commonly seen in children who participate in soccer or gymnastics, but any activity requiring running or jumping can contribute to it. It is not usually seen in older children, as the back of the heel has basically finished growing by age 15.