Ill-fitted shoes aren't the cause of your bunions, but they do play a role
A bunion is a painful, bony bump that develops on the inner side of the foot at the big toe joint. Bunions are medically known as hallux valgus.
If you think that your pretty high heels and tight boots gave you bunions, then you, like many others who believe this myth, are mistaken. A bunion is a painful, bony bump that develops on the inner side of the foot at the big toe joint. Bunions are medically known as hallux valgus.
The big toe is made up of two joints. The largest of the two is the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, where the first long bone of the foot (metatarsal) meets the first bone of the toe (phalanx). A bunion forms when the bones that make up the MTP joint move out of alignment. Development of bunions happens slowly as the pressure on the MTP joint causes the big toe to lean toward the second toe. Eventually, the MTP joint gets larger and protrudes from the side of the forefoot.
What causes bunions?
For a long time, people have had this notion that wearing tight heels or pointed-toe box shoes can lead to bunions. While prolonged use of ill-fitting shoes does not cause bunions per se, it does increase the risk of developing a bunion in individuals already prone to them.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown. Bunions are acquired deformities, but can also run in families. Bunions can be caused by some medical condition such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis or neuromuscular diseases which affect the skeletal system of the body.
The other reason behind bunions is poor foot function, like collapsed arches or flat feet, in otherwise healthy people. People of all ages and fitness levels can get bunions. However, it is more common in women and older individuals.
What are the early signs of a developing bunion?
The possible early signs of a bunion that could help them prevent further progression, are:
- Changes in the shape of the foot
- A swollen bony bump on the inner side of your foot
- Pain and swelling over your big toe joint
- Hard, red and callused skin on the second toe because of overlapping of the big toe over the second
- The skin on top of the bunion would be sore
What could be done for bunions?
Bunions are usually treated without surgery. The nonsurgical treatment cannot reverse a bunion but it can help reduce pain and prevent the bunion from worsening.
Non-surgical treatment involves switching to shoes that fit properly and do not compress the toes. The use of protective bunion-shield silicone pads that help cushion the painful area over the bunion is recommended. Custom-made shoe inserts called orthotics could be used to align the big toe.
In some cases, a splint is worn at night that places the big toe in a more upright position to help relieve pain. Swelling could be reduced by applying ice packs.
Surgery to remove bunions is not recommended unless the bunion causes extreme pain that does not improve with a change in footwear or addition of orthotics. Bunion surgery realigns bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves so that the big toe can be brought back to its correct position.
For more on this topic, please read our article on Bunions: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment.
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The archaeological and the historical record suggests that this new fashion item was widely adopted by England’s medieval society and that, by the late 14th century, almost every type of shoe was at least slightly pointed, even in children.
Wearing ill-fitting shoes can also lead to osteoarthritis of the knee, lower back pain, injured leg muscles and ligaments too.