Yes, even teens get bunions. Juvenile hallux valgus is the proper term for a bunion that develops during childhood. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons surgery is not recommended unless your child is in extreme pain. If your juvenile or adolescent Hallux Valgus (bunion) sufferer opts for bunion surgery, particularly while they are still growing, chances are good, that the bunion will return after surgery.
Often, teens with bunions have flat feet or excessive pronation which can result in splaying of the metatarsals (toes) and eventually result in bunions. That’s not to say that any child with flat feet will develop bunions, in fact, that is not true at all. Studies have shown that it’s the inherited genetic make-up that will determine if your child is predisposed to developing bunions. The fact that they have flat feet just means they have a second contributing factor and typically has a way of bringing the bunions to the forefront earlier than probably expected.
The most common demographic in the teen community are girls between the ages of 10 and 15. Even at such a young age more than half of young bunion sufferers are female. Often, if there is pain it is due to the onset of Bursitis, where the small sac between the tendon and bone becomes inflamed. This will start to force the big toe to angle towards the second toe. Naturally, the most conclusive way to determine if it is a bunion is by taking an x-ray of the bunion itself. Unfortunately there is not much a doctor can do to treat the bunion, especially at such a young age. Any doctor that suggests surgery on your young bunion sufferer should be reevaluated and a second opinion should be sought.
There are tips that parents can take in order to prevent the progression of bunions, most of which can be exercised when shoe shopping;
- Have your child’s foot measured regularly, ideally each time you purchase new shoes
- Make sure you measure both feet because just as with adults the shoe size may differ by foot
- If your child’s feet are different sizes, go with the larger size.
- During the fitting, make sure your child is standing and that at minimum, 3/8” space remains between the toe and the shoe
- Make sure the area around the ball of the foot is not too tight, go with a wider shoe if needed
- Shop with the thickest socks that might be worn with the shoes
If needed, shoe stretchers may be bought to help give their bunions the space they need. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, parents can also try taping the foot in order to maintain a normal position and reduce stress and pain. Toe spacers, bunion splints, anti-pronation running shoes are suggested but what might work the best and most comfortably are Bunion Booties. They accomplish the same thing as bunion splints and toe spacers but Bunion Booties are made up entirely of a soft flexible material that can be easily and comfortably worn in any shoe. Additional conservative treatments may include icing, NSAID medication, and wearing wide toe shoes.