What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bump that occurs at the base of the big toe when the joint that connects the toe to the foot (the metatarsophalangeal joint) becomes enlarged and sticks out.

  • While bunions are most common among adult women, they also tend to occur among young teenagers, especially girls between the ages of 10-15.
  • They can become progressively larger, to the point where wearing any type of shoe is painful.
  • Bursitis, an inflammation of the small sac between a tendon and a bone, may set in and your child's big toe may begin to angle toward the second toe, or move all the way under it.
  • The pressure from the big toe could force the second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping the third toe.

What causes bunions?

If your teenager has a bunion, chances are he or she is wearing shoes that are too tight, with a narrow toe box and/or with an elevated heel. (Girls are three times more likely than boys to get adolescent bunions).

Although bunions can be an inherited condition that occurs in families, shoes that are too small are the primary cause of bunions and other disabling foot problems such as corns, calluses, and hammertoes. An underlying neurological disorder, such as cerebral palsy, can also predispose a child to developing bunions.

What are the symptoms of bunions?

The symptoms of adolescent bunions are as follows: 

  • swelling around the base of the big toe
  • a sore bump
  • pain and trouble wearing shoes
  • pain when walking

The symptoms of bunions may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How we care for bunions

The Boston Children's Hospital Orthopedic Center recommends non-invasive, non-surgical treatment for your child's bunions, except in the most severe cases. This can be as simple as being extra attentive when you take your child shoe shopping, and picking shoes that accommodate both your child's foot size and shape.