A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is often described as an unsightly bump on the side of your big toe joint. But a bunion is much more than that. The visible bump actually reflects changes to the alignment of the bones in the front part of your foot. Developing slowly and progressively from a gradual dislocation of your big toe joint, your first metatarsal bone (the long bone on the arch side of your foot) shifts toward the mid-line of your body, and the big toe shifts and leans toward your second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead. This produces the “bump” you see on the side of your foot.
At first, this bump is actually just the side of your big toe joint protruding outward, but with repetitive strain and pressure from footwear, new bone growth occurs and an actual bump of bone will develop. In severe cases, your big toe may actually overlap or under lap your second toe, and all other smaller toes will become crowded, shift outward or claw, to make room for your big toe.
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of your foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make you prone to developing a bunion. When the function and structure of your foot is not ideal – especially if your feet over-pronate (your ankle rolls inward too much) – pressure from walking and running can change the way your bones and tendons move. Ill-fitting and pointy-toed shoes are often blamed for causing bunions; although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. You may also end up with a lot of pain.
Symptoms usually appear at later stages, although some people never have symptoms. Symptoms occur most often when you wear shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.
Even though bunions are a common foot problem, there are myths about them. Many people unnecessarily suffer the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment. Bunions don’t go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike –some bunions progress more quickly than others. At We-Fix-U our Chiropodists (foot health specialists) will perform a thorough evaluation of your feet to determine the degree of your toe deformity and the changes that have occurred. From this, we will develop a treatment plan that is suited to your needs. Our experts always try conservative treatments when possible. Unless your bunion is causing you a lot of pain, limit your activity level, and all conservative treatments have been unsuccessful, surgery is not recommended. It is also never ideal to have your bunions surgically corrected so you can wear certain shoe styles.
There are no exercises, splints or other devices that reliably correct a bunion. Orthotics can sometimes slow or halt the progression by addressing the instability that causes the deformity. Painful bunions can be debilitating and prevent you from doing desired activities, and make shoe fitting difficult.
Typical shoes and boots are designed for straight feet and these straight shoes press on the bunion. For lace up shoes, follow this lacing guide to help relieve pressure on your bunion:
If you need more space, or if you also have a bunion on your baby toe (we call this a “Tailor’s Bunion, try skipping the first eyelet on BOTH sides of the shoe, like this: