More than one-third of women in America have bunions, a common deformity often blamed on wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels. Bunions may occur in families, but many are from wearing tight shoes, and nine out of 10 bunions happen to women. Too-tight shoes can also cause other disabling foot problems such as corns, calluses and hammer toes.
Bunions tend to run in families, although it is the faulty foot mechanics that lead to bunions that are inherited, not the bunions themselves. Some authorities, in fact, suggest that the most significant factor in bunion formation is the poor foot mechanics passed down through families. However, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society estimates that women have bunions nine times more often than men, that 88 percent of women in the United States wear shoes that are too small, and that 55 percent of women have bunions. Again, this reflects the wearing of shoes with tight, pointed toes, or with high heels that shift all of your body's weight onto your toes and also jam your toes into your shoes' toe boxes. It should be noted that it generally takes years of continued stress on the toes for bunions to develop.
The dominant symptom of a bunion is a big bulging bump on the inside of the base of the big toe. Other symptoms include swelling, soreness and redness around the big toe joint, a tough callus at the bottom of the big toe and persistent or intermittent pain.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long-term treatment of bunions must be directed towards re-balancing the foot, so that we no longer walk with our weight forced on to the inner border of the foot. This is accomplished by controlling and reducing pronation with the use of a high quality arch support or custom made orthotics. These devices comfortably re-balance the feet and overcome pronation. This reduces the abnormal weight forces on the big toe and its metatarsal head, allowing the feet to function normally. As a result, the deformity should not worsen, and the pain should gradually subside. If the foot is not re-balanced, the deformity and pain will become worse.
For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Bunion surgery aims to bring your big toe back into its correct position. Several different surgical procedures have been used to treat bunions. These include 'shaving' excess bone, removing the end of one of the bones or breaking and re-aligning the misplaced bone. Rehabilitation from bunion surgery can be quite long and usually involves you keeping off your foot for some weeks. It may take a year or more for complete recovery.
To help prevent bunions be sure your shoes don't cramp or irritate your toes. Choose shoes with a wide toe box - there should be space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Your shoes should conform to the shape of your feet without squeezing or pressing any part of your foot. Avoid pointy-toed shoes.