How to do about bunions
hoes with narrow toes can trigger a bunion, but they're not the underlying cause. Bunions run in families, because foot type (shape and structure) is hereditary, and some types are more prone to bunions than others. Low arches, flat feet, and loose joints and tendons all increase the risk. The shape of the metatarsal head (the top of the first metatarsal bone) also makes a difference: if it's too round, the joint is less stable and more likely to deform when squeezed into shoes with narrow toes.
High heels can exacerbate the problem because they tip the body's weight forward, forcing the toes into the front of the shoe. This may help to explain why bunions are 10 times more common in women than in men.
People in occupations such as teaching and nursing, which involve a lot of standing and walking, are susceptible to bunions. So are ballet dancers, whose feet suffer severe repetitive stress. Women can develop bunions and other foot problems during pregnancy because hormonal changes loosen the ligaments and flatten the feet. Bunions are also associated with arthritis, which damages the cartilage within the joint.
You may be able to relieve pain and prevent bunions from progressing with conservative measures that take pressure off the MTP joint and improve foot mechanics. Bunions generally don't require surgery unless there's an underlying deformity that can't otherwise be corrected or the pain becomes debilitating despite conservative treatment.
Why bunions need attention
The MTP joint helps us bear and distribute weight during a range of activities. A bunion at this critical junction of bones, tendons, and ligaments can seriously impair the foot's functioning. For one thing, a bunion on the big toe can damage the other toes. Under the pressure of the big toe, they may develop corns or become bent, forming hammertoes. The nails may become ingrown, and calluses may form on the bottom of the foot. If you constantly shift your weight off the painful big toe joint to other metatarsals, you may develop discomfort in the ball of the foot. As the misshapen joint becomes more uncomfortable and harder to fit into shoes, you may have to curtail exercise and other activities. Even walking may become difficult.
- Especially in older women, foot disorders are a major cause of disability and sedentary habits. Older women are more likely to have bunions as they get older, and the more severe their bunions are, the lower their quality of life is. You should seek treatment if the pain and deformity interfere with daily routines and physical activity.