Fashionable Footwear Often Leads to Painful Bunions
A Monthly Foot Fact from Foot.com, the “Foot Health Network”
If there were such a thing as footwear police, they might arrest the designers of fashionable shoes that squeeze women’s forefeet into tiny toe boxes, often causing one of the most common foot conditions: bunions.
According to Dr. Suzanne Belyea, Medical Director at Foot.com, a bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. The bump is actually a protrusion of the end of the big toes to each long bone, caused when tight toe boxes force the big toe inward.
“When tight footwear forces the big toe into the other toes, the pressure against the head of the bone can cause the area to become enlarged and painful,” explains Dr. Belyea.
Bunions are referred to in the medical community as Hallux Valgus. Symptoms include redness and inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe caused by the rubbing of the shoe. Some people develop a callous over the prominent bump, and it may be warm to the touch. The discomfort commonly causes a patient to walk improperly.
Another type of bunion is known as a bunionette. This forms on the outside of the foot towards the joint at the little toe. It is a smaller bump that forms due to the little toe moving inwards, towards the big toe. The common name is a Tailor’s Bunion, because tailors used to sit cross-legged on the floor, pressing their small toes in and often causing this condition.
Although a bunion can develop from an abnormality in foot function or arthritis, Dr. Belyea says that the disorder is usually caused by poorly chosen or improperly fitting footwear. Because of this tie to uncomfortable footwear, bunions are usually experienced by women. Dr. Belyea stresses that it is important for both men and women to realize that wearing dress shoes
and boots tapered in the toe area can cause the bunion to worsen to the point where surgery is necessary.
In the early stages of the formation of a bunion, soaking the feet in warm water can provide temporary relief. The best way to alleviate the pain associated with bunions is to wear properly fitting shoes. Shoes designed with a high, wide toe box are recommended. Shoes with rocker soles will unload pressure from the bunion area. Orthotics are also recommended to
provide extra comfort, support, and protection.
Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to accommodate and relieve bunions such as bunion shields, bunion night splints, and bunion bandages. These treatments can limit the progression of the bunion formation, relieve pain and provide a healthy environment for the foot.
If the problem persists, Dr. Belyea recommends consulting your foot doctor.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Graphics to accompany this article can be found under “Foot Conditions” at www.foot.com.