What Are the Causes of Ankle Pain in Children?

The ankle is a hinge joint that connects the tibia and fibula bones, and provides stability for weight bearing and foot mobility. Foot and ankle pain is quite common during childhood and adolescence, and most of the time is no cause for concern. It is important for parents and children to educate themselves on the most common causes of ankle pain in children to determine when medical intervention is necessary.

Close-up of a young boy about to kick a soccer ball. (Image: anek_s/iStock/Getty Images)

Flat Feet

When children are flat-footed, it means they do not have a normal arch. Flat feet can occur in one or both feet, and usually does not appear until the age of 2 or 3. Flat feet can occasionally cause pain in the ankle, heel or arch, particularly when running or walking. Doctors often recommend a shoe insert or heel cup to minimize the pain, according to FamilyDoctor.org, and sometimes recommend resting when the pain occurs with overuse. Particular shoe styles, barefoot walking or exercises cannot improve flat feet.

Growing Pains

Ankle pain is often a sign of growing pains, which usually occur between the ages of 8 and 12 as children become more active in physical activities. Thin, flat, crescent-shaped growth centers separate bone and cartilage in younger children. When a child enters puberty, these growth centers close, according to surgeon podiatrist Dr. David Zuckerman of TheFootSpecialist.com. This can result in heel, foot and and ankle pain, and even cause limping. Orthotics, a splint or soft cast can often prevent pain and injury while strengthening the feet and ankles.

Injuries

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in sports and are a common cause of ankle pain. The Varsity Orthopedics website notes that sports like track, football, soccer, hockey and gymnastics coupled with overuse and improper technique can cause injuries because a child's inner ankle is less stable and will turn inward after a contact injury.

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