What Causes Foot Pain in Toddler and What to Do?

If you are dealing with foot pain in toddler as a parent, you most likely want to know what is causing it. You may notice your little one staying awake during the night, or even complaining about walking distances. Toddlers and preschool age children often have “growing pains,” that begin late in the second year of life up until age 4. However, there are other issues that may cause foot pain. This article explains some the common causes, when to contact your doctor, and things you can do to help.

What Causes Toddler Foot Pain?

Foot pain in toddler’s can be just a typical muscle soreness from overuse. They tend to push their bodies to the limits with running, jumping and climbing. An occasional bout of pain is probably nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, repeated pain in your toddlers feet may be a sign that something else is going on. Here is a list of some of the conditions that can cause foot pain in your toddler:

  1. Flatfoot

If your toddler has flat feet, it is an actual foot deformity. It occurs when the foot doesn’t develop a normal arch. As your toddler begins to walk around one-year, you will notice the feet look more chubby than normal. There won’t be a bony arch shape, but it is also very hard to diagnose at this age. By the time your child is 2 to 3 years of age, the shape of the foot will become more apparent. The inside of the arch will appear flat and be able to touch the floor. You may also notice that shoes wear incorrectly on the soles.

Symptoms:

  • Arch pain
  • Heel pain
  • Ankle pain
  • Rolling the foot
  • Back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Leg pain
  1. Growing Pains

If your child is going through a “growth spurt” you may notice complaints of pain in the feet and legs. Most doctors state that growing shouldn’t hurt, but some kids are more sensitive to the stretching of growth plates in the body. Toddlers who are new to walking may get “tired” muscles in their feet from bursts of activity during a growth spurt. Tired muscles often hurt or cause aching sensations.

Symptoms:

  • More sleepy than usual
  • Eating more than usual
  • Wanting to be held and carried instead of walking
  • Needing feet and legs to be rubbed at night
  • Not wanting to wear shoes
  1. Restless Leg Syndrome

It is hard to explain why a toddler may have restless leg syndrome. RLS is actually a neurological condition where sensations are felt in the legs and feet. The cause is unknown, but toddlers may experience this for a number of reasons. It is commonly found in small children and early walkers with allergic conditions, asthma, and eczema. Almost as if the child has “internal itching.” It may also be due to a medication, anemia, or childhood diabetes.

Symptoms:

  • Need to move feet and legs
  • Internal “Itching”
  • Aching in the feet and legs
  • Leg cramping
  1. Nutritional Deficiency

Toddler foot pain may be due to a nutritional deficiency. The first is, dehydration. If the weather is hot and your toddler is not good with drinking fluids, or if they have been vomiting, they may need electrolyte replacement. Low potassium and magnesium can cause cramping in the feet and legs. Dehydration in toddlers can be a serious issue, and can occur quickly.

Symptoms:

  • Complaints of feet or leg pain/cramping
  • Dry mouth
  • Absence of tears
  • Sunken in eyes
  • Recent exposure to heat
  • Recent illness with vomiting and/or diarrhea

Secondly, anemia can also cause muscle and joint pain. When the body doesn’t have enough iron to carry the oxygen to the cells, fatigue and pain can result. Children who are anemic often complain of pain in their legs and feet.

Symptoms:

  • Fatigue/Sleepy
  • Pale skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Feeling cold
  • Dizziness 
  1. Sever’s Disease

This condition occurs from an injury to the growth plate in the heel. If your child fell or jumped in a way that causes impact to the heel, the injury can occur. In some children, you may not even recall a time when the heel of the foot was impacted. The growth plate becomes inflamed and may not ease up until the feet have finished growing.

When to Contact the Doctor

If you notice an occasional episode of toddler foot pain, it may be nothing to worry about. If your toddler begins to complain of foot pain on a repeated basis, you may need to have them checked by the pediatrician. There are other signs that go along with foot pain when there is a problem. These include:

  • Bowed legs
  • Walking on toes
  • Overly clumsy/Falling
  • Toeing in or out
  • Refusal to walk
  • Foot Deformities
  • Complaints of hip/Back pain

If your child’s pediatrician suspects an issue, you may be referred to a podiatrist (foot doctor) for further evaluation and treatment.

What You Can Do To Help

Sometimes, toddlers push their bodies to the limits and they may just be suffering from overworked muscles. Here are some things that may help:

  • Buy sturdy shoes. Toddlers feet are still developing and growing. In the early stages of walking, they will need sturdy shoes to help support the feet muscles and bones. Take your toddler to the shoe store and have their feet properly measured to get the right fit. Remember, little feet grow fast so have them remeasured a few times a year.
  • Try a warm bath. You can try a warm bath at night after a long day of running, jumping, and playing. This will help relax tired muscles and help them sleep better. End the bath with a foot massage with some lotion.
  • Encourage fluids. During times of stomach illness or warm days, make sure your toddler is taking in enough fluids. While it’s good to limit sugary drinks, try to get them to drink water, electrolyte replacement, or watered down juices.
  • Prevent anemia. Feed your toddler a diet high in iron to prevent anemia from happening in the first place. Encourage things like iron fortified cereals, eggs, lean meats, and leafy green vegetables.

These are the things you can do for occasional toddler foot pain if your doctor doesn’t think there is a foot problem.

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