Are Shoes the Cause of Your Bunion Blues?
When a patient with a bunion comes to my office I often hear the same sad tale. “My mother always made me wear shoes that were too small for me when I was a child.” This rubs me the wrong way, because I know better. First of all, I was raised in the South, and I know better than to blame mama. Secondly, I know that the real cause of a bunion is usually not tight fitting shoes. The most common cause of a bunion is genetics, and it pains me to say it, but you just might be able to blame Mama for that.
A bunion is a foot deformity on the outside of your big toe joint. Bunions develop over time due to improper foot motion and abnormal joint stress. After awhile this motion and stress forces the bone and soft tissue at the base of the big toe into an abnormal position, creating a bony prominence (a bump, if you will) and instability.
Most bunions occur in woman (actually 9 times more than occur in men). Since women generally wear tighter, higher-heeled shoes than men, it’s no surprise that many women blame their bunions on tight shoes. The fact is that their XX chromosomes and family are mostly to blame. Tight, high-heeled shoes may contribute to development of the deformity, can cause bunions to progress quicker, and they certainly make bunions more symptomatic. Most women with a bunion can attest to the fact that daily wearing of peep toe, pointy toe, or very high-heeled shoes make a bunion very painful. For those with flat feet ballet flats will usually feel more comfortable, but their lack of support can be a developing bunion’s best friend.
When choosing shoes, be reasonable. I tell my patient’s that there’s nothing wrong with wearing those sexy Christian Louboutin heels to dinner or a nice event. They just shouldn’t be your everyday shoes. The APMA has given its Seal of Acceptance to shoes that have room for your piggies (and your bunion), a reasonable heel height, and a supportive arch. To see the shoes with the Seal visit APMA.org/Seal.
So, the question remains, what can be done after you have a bunion? There are several conservative options that patients can try as well as surgical correction. I have already touched on better shoe choices, so I won’t belabor the point. Get shoes that fit your feet- period. You may also find padding and strapping devices helpful at relieving the pressure on an inflamed bunion. At Advanced Food and Ankle Care we have several options in this category, and we can help in choosing the one that is right for you. Often over the counter anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen provide pain relief from a bunion. I often prescribe oral or topical anti-inflammatories for my patients, and I find that these offer satisfactory relief. Custom orthotics are a great option, especially for an early or developing bunion. These help correct mal-alignment problems and can keep a bunion from developing further. They can also relieve some of the pressure on the great toe joint. Cortisone injections can be very effective at relieving the painful joint inflammation a bunion can cause. Some patients even find relief from physical therapy and yoga. All of these conservative treatments can help relieve the pain caused by they bunion, but they will not get rid of the bump that is already there.
Surgery is warranted if your bunion is painful and interferes with your quality of life. Your particular surgical procedure depends on where in your foot the deformity is originating from and how severe your bunion is. The doctors at Advanced Foot and Ankle Care perform well over 100 bunion surgeries every year, and we would be happy to evaluate your bunion and decide which treatment would be best tailored to you.
In April 2013 the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) launched its spring campaign, “Beat Bunion Blues” with informative posters, a video, and even a Beat Bunion Blues Pinterest pinboard. I will leave you with these 5 bunion facts, provided by the APMA:
#1. Bunions are two to nine times more common in women than in men.
#2. 55% of American women have bunions.
#3. Wearing high heels may increase your risk of developing bunions. The narrow toe box and increased pressure on the front of the foot can put the toe joints out of alignment.
#4. 72% of Americans say that foot pain affects their daily life, but only 22% of Americans with foot pain have consulted a podiatrist.
#5. Up to 95% of patients who undergo bunion surgery are satisfied with the results.
If you would like to find out more about the APMAs “Beat Bunion Blues” campaign go to AMPA.org/Bunion.