Children and Sports

As children take up a particular sport and become more active at school, foot and lower limb problems associated with unaccustomed exercise can occur. Growth, possible weight gain and increased exercise contrive to cause a wide range of painful foot and lower limb conditions. These complaints should always be taken seriously and a diagnosis made as soon as possible. Failure to recognise and treat these overuse symptons can lead to long-term problems for the child and an inability to reach their true sporting potential.

Most problems can be readily managed by your podiatrist utilising a variety of methods. But the treatment may also require periods of rest and a change to everyday footwear and activity footwear. Often the problem can be solved with footwear advice alone. Always remember to wear the correct footwear for that particular sport.

Barefoot activities, e.g. karate and judo are good exercise for the foot but also cause problems due to the foot having a relatively lower heel from what is it is used to. This puts strain on the arch of the foot and the back of the lower leg. Careful training and preparation are essential.

If a child indulges in any form of activity, injuries can occur and there will be aches and pains from time to time. Children are no different to adults in this respect but they tend to repair more quickly. Also, they tend not to rest when injured and need to be monitored carefully. Very young children may regard the problem as the norm and not complain. All aches and pains in children should be taken seriously and investigated professionally, particularly during periods of active growth.

Follow the 1cm rule – when shopping for the perfect sports shoes ensure you can wiggle your toes a little and leave 1cm of room from the top of your longest toe at the end of your shoe. Try on both shoes and walk around the shop to make sure they don’t pinch or rub.

Warm up and stretch – before starting any form of exercise, stretch and warm up your entire body and then stretch and warm down at the end of every session.

Always wear socks to reduce the risk of fungal infection and blisters. The best running socks are ones that are made from synthetic materials which are designed to wick sweat away from the skin, (such as CoolMax™) as they don’t absorb moisture like 100% cotton socks, and keep the feet drier.

Choose the correct shoes for the sport. If running is the choice for 2010, buy a running shoe which has adequate cushioning in the midsole and a flared heel for stability. However, if it’s a racquet sport such as squash or tennis, buy shoes designed for racquet sports that give better stability when moving and stopping suddenly around the court – a running shoe wouldn’t be suitable due to lack of lateral support.

How to avoid blisters – Blisters are painful, fluid filled lesions caused by friction from ill-fitting shoes, excessive moisture, or wrinkled socks against the skin. To prevent them, keep your feet dry, always wear socks as a cushion between your feet and your shoes and always wear properly fitting shoes. If a blister does occur, never pop it.