One of the most common foot problems encountered by women are bunions. Bunions are the bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe, along the inside of the foot. The bump forms because the joint is jutting out, when both the first metatarsal of the foot shifts outward, and the big toe starts pointing inward towards the other toes.
When this nasty bump rubs up against the sides of your shoes, the joint’s natural cushions become inflamed, and can leave your joint feeling very stiff and painful.
If you’re a word nerd, the Latin name for a bunion is “hallux valgus,” which literally means “the big toe turned away from the body’s center.” But I digress. What you really need to know is how to prevent a bunion, and treat one once you have it.
Women and Bunions? What Gives?
We need to talk. It’s about your shoes.
One of the reasons why women are ten times more likely to develop bunions than men is the way women’s shoes are constructed. I know this may come as a shocker, but fashionable women’s shoes are not built for comfort (who knew?). Or, for that matter, for proper foot support.
If you are frequently shoving your feet into narrow, pointy shoes, day-in and day-out, chances are good that you are going to develop a bunion. Your big toe is squished against your other toes, sometimes finding space underneath or overtop of them.
High heels make the problem even worse by tipping your weight forward and further jamming the toes into the point of the shoe.
Women also tend to dominate the job fields of nursing, teaching, and serving, which require a lot of walking and standing.
Had enough? No? Pregnancy can also spawn bunions. The hormones that loosen a pregnant woman’s pelvis to make room for the baby can also loosen the bones in her feet, causing bunions. There, now you’ve had enough.
While pointy shoes and pregnancy can trigger bunions, the real underlying cause is the particular shape of your foot, which is why bunions are known to run in families. Flat-footed people and people with low arches are more likely to develop bunions. That’s easy to spot. People with loose joints and tendons are also more susceptible because their foot structure lacks stability. If this sounds like you, the best way to prevent a bunion is to watch your footwear.
Toughing it Through Bunion Pain? Think Again.
Leaving a bunion untreated can cause a host of other problems. The pressure the big toe puts on the other toes could cause corns or hammertoes. They could develop ingrown nails or calluses. As the pain and deformity grow, your gait changes to shift weight onto the other toes, which they were not built to sustain. Exercising, dancing, and even walking might become too painful to bear. Women are more likely to develop bunions as they age, which could lead to disability and a sedentary lifestyle.
There are some easy, inexpensive, and non-invasive methods for dealing with bunions. The jist of these treatments is to take pressure off the joint and provide your foot with better structure.
Tip #1 – Wear the Right Shoes
Choose shoes with a wide and flexible sole. Make sure your foot is supported and that there’s enough room in the toe box for your bunion to fit. You shouldn’t feel like you’re forcing your foot into your shoe. Shoes should be made to fit feet, not the other way around.
The back of the shoe should fit snugly around your heel and keep it from sliding around inside the shoe. Heels should be no more than an inch high. If you have a supportive shoe, but the toe box is just a little too narrow, you might be able to use a stretcher to help it accommodate your bunion. Your feet will thank you!
Tip #2 – Use Orthotic Inserts
An orthotic insert could help give your foot support if you’re going to be walking or standing a lot for your job. Visit your foot and ankle specialist to get custom fitted for an orthotic.
Tip #3 – Get Therapeutic
Wearing a splint while you sleep can help to hold the toe straight, relieving the pressure and easing the pain. If your bunion is especially irritated, pamper it with warm soaks, whirlpools, and massages. Ice packs can provide cooling relief. You can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen.
Surgery for Bunions
What should you expect from your consultation? Your foot and ankle specialist will ask about your age, activity level, and health history, and take an x-ray or MRI scan of your foot to determine the severity of your condition.
Just as no two feet are the exactly the same, so it goes that no two bunions are either. This might explain why there are 44 different variations of bunion surgery, who knew? There is not a “one bunion surgery fits all” and each surgery should be uniquely customized for every patient. Be sure to keep this in mind when selecting your bunion surgeon!
And good news! Revolutionary advancements in bunion surgery now allow for immediate weight bearing following surgery and select procedures now boast at 99.9% success rate…(that means the bunion never comes back!)
But you shouldn’t make this decision lightly! Make sure you’ve tried all of the conservative before considering surgery. Luckily, a bunion, as painful or ugly as it is, is not a medical emergency. Get some comfy shoes. Soak and ice your feet. Get fitted for an orthotic. And then seek the advice of your foot and ankle specialist.
Latest posts by Christie Condon (see all)
- What an Ultrasound Can Tell You about Your Heel Pain - July 8, 2015
- The Pitter-Patter of Healthy Baby Feet - June 19, 2015
- Walking for Exercise… Walk This Way to Better Health - June 1, 2015