children standing in tennis shoesA bunion is a bump on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe. When one develops in childhood, it is called a juvenile hallux. 

When a bunion occurs in adults, it is due to extra bone overgrowth which causes inflammation. In youth, the cause is different. Bunions in children and teens are due to a misalignment of the big toe—which is a structural issue that causes the bones of the foot to point in and move the cartilage of the big toe over the smaller toes to form a bunion.

Risk Factors

Bunions can be inherited and tend to run in families. However, bunions are not present at birth. 

Youth who have flat feet or have a nerve problem are more likely to develop a bunion. Factors such as wearing tight shoes that do not fit properly can also aid in the development of a bunion in children or teens. 

Common Bunion Symptoms

Children and teens may have similar symptoms as adults when they have a bunion. For example:

  • A visible, sore bump at the inside of the foot
  • Swelling at the base of the big toe
  • Cracking of the big toe joint
  • Bending of the big toe towards the other toes
  • Shoes that wear out at the sole and side near the big toe
  • Pain when wearing shoes or when walking
  • Burning and numbness at the big toe joint

Younger children may not have the vocabulary to accurately describe their symptoms, so parents must be vigilant. If your child complains of general foot pain or is attempting to avoid specific activities, they may be suffering from a bunion. 

Diagnosing a Bunion

If your child or teenager is experiencing bunion symptoms, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist. A podiatrist will diagnose a bunion with:

  • A physical exam. During the exam, the podiatrist will check for things such as proper foot alignment, walking alignment, weight-bearing alignment, and how the affected joint moves.
  • Imaging tests. Your podiatrist may order tests such as an X-ray to determine the severity of the condition.

There are other conditions that are similar to bunions. Conditions such as arthritis, hammer toe, bursitis, and infection of the joints can also occur and cause symptoms much like a bunion. A podiatrist would rule out these conditions during his evaluation.

Bunion Treatment Options

Unfortunately, children do not grow out of a bunion. Noninvasive treatment options are usually recommended and work well. There are a variety of options including:

  • Changing shoes. Changing shoes to ones that fit properly and do not restrict the big toe can make a difference. 
  • Cold compress. A cold compress can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Ice can be applied for 10 minutes each hour.
  • Custom orthotics. An orthotic can be used to relieve pressure and provide support.
  • Splint. A splint can reposition the big toe and help to reduce pain.
  • Toe separator. A separator can be worn to prevent irritation of the toes if they are rubbing together.
  • Exercise. There are exercises that can help with mobility and help in strengthening the toe muscles.
  • Medication. Medication such as ibuprofen can be used to reduce inflammation and pain.

If conservative treatment does not help or if it is a severe case, your podiatrist may recommend bunion surgery as an option. Since a child is still growing, surgery is not the preferred treatment option. Every person is different so treatment options will vary depending on the severity of the bunion and the child’s personal needs.

Time to See a Podiatrist

If your child or teen has a bunion and is experiencing pain and discomfort, Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry can help. We offer a free initial consultation and can create a custom treatment plan to help get them back on their feet as soon as possible. To make an appointment you can fill out our contact form online or call our office at (301) 515-FEET.