It’s not surprising to see the bump of a bunion on an actress’ foot or poking out the side of your aunt’s high heels. Years of pressure (and often fashionable but unhealthy shoes) encourage the big toe to develop the bony bulge. It can be surprising, then, to see that same problem on a child or teenager’s foot. Bunions aren’t limited by age—which means some young people may find themselves struggling with a juvenile bunion.
The Bump Is All in the Foot Structure
A juvenile bunion is simply this forefoot deformity in a child or teen whose body hasn’t finished growing. Like an adult bunion, the bump at the base of the big toe is the result of the toe and its metatarsal bone tilting in opposite directions. The joint where they meet then bulges out the side of the foot. The youth deformity has a slightly different cause than the adult version, however. Instead of a long-standing, progressive issue from a combination of faulty biomechanics, excessive pressure, and a particular foot shape, bunions in children develop when the joint is too flexible.
The joint itself or its supporting ligaments aren’t as stable as they need to be to keep the big toe and the first metatarsal properly in place. As a result, they end up moving out of alignment when they’re under pressure. Usually this accompanies problems with flat feet or overpronation. Just like adult bunions, though, this condition can get progressively worse and doesn’t heal on its own.
Why It Hurts
Often the bump on the side of your child’s big toe presses and rubs against the inside of your child’s shoe. This friction can aggravate and irritate the tissues in your son or daughter’s joint, enlarging it and causing pain. This can make it difficult to wear many types of shoes. Worse, the more the toe tilts inward while the metatarsal leans away, the more the joint is damaged and can lose mobility.
Taking Care of Bunions in Children
The sooner you help your son or daughter deal with a juvenile bunion, the more likely that conservative treatment will be successful. The goal of treatment is, of course, to prevent the condition from worsening and to alleviate any pain. Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen and the team will carefully examine your child’s feet. Then our staff will work with you and your son or daughter to plan out the best possible treatment.
Shoe changes and orthotics are usually the most important and most effective conservative methods. Your child should avoid footwear styles that have super-flat soles and no arch support as well as any high heels. Instead, help him or her choose a shoe with a wide, rounded toe box, arch support, and appropriate cushioning. Orthotics help compensate for what a shoe can’t provide in those areas. They can also protect the painful bump from some friction and correct biomechanical issues that might make the condition worse.
When the bump is uncomfortable, have your child ice it. A simple moleskin or gel pad between your child’s foot and shoe may help as well. For persistent pain, we may recommend youth-safe anti-inflammatory medications. Since your son or daughter’s feet are still growing, surgery is not preferred. It only becomes an option for very painful feet that don’t respond to conservative treatments.
Juvenile bunions shouldn’t have to be a concern for you or your child. Don’t wait until your son or daughter can hardly walk to take care of them—deal with the problem right away. Our team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. in Castle Pines and Parker, CO, are happy to help. Just call (303) 805-5156 or use our web request form to reach us.