• My Family Podiatry

I Think I Might Be Getting A Bunion

This is a phrase we regularly hear mentioned in our podiatry clinics, often by people concerned their feet will end up like one of their relatives. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a large number of people who end up seeing me after their bunion has significantly progressed, stating they were too embarrassed to come in sooner. But what is a bunion? And what can be done to prevent them?

What Is A Bunion

A bunion is a change in foot structure in which the big toe begins to bend toward the lesser toes. This can result in pain, deformity of the foot and a decreased level of balance and mobility. Bunions tend to be more common in older individuals however they can occur at any age, including children. When the toe begins to move outwards, this places pressure on the joint which can lead to arthritic change and the development of a painful bursa.

Foot with a bunion next to a healthy foot

The exact reason some people develop bunions while others do not is unknown, however it appears to be a combination of:

  • Genetics: Often bunions will run in families.

  • Poor and restrictive footwear: Shoes with a narrow toe box apply pressure to the big toe and push it across.

  • Poor foot posture in standing and walking: Flat feet or feet that roll in apply more pressure to the side of the big toe and can increase the likelihood of developing a bunion.

How To Avoid Developing A Bunion

The main methods of avoiding bunions involves reducing the risk factors mentioned above. While you cannot change your genetics, you can avoid tight, narrow or ill-fitting shoes which will reduce the pressure on the big toe. Issues with gait and foot posture can also be corrected, and if interventions are made early, the potential damage can be avoided.

What Do I Do If I Already Have A Bunion?

For those who have already developed a bunion, the main priority is preventing this from becoming worse. Many people live with bunions without any concerns or issues. A stiff and restricted bunion is what we are aiming to avoid and you should speak with your podiatrist about ways we can help. This can include:

  • Footwear advice: Many shoes will accomodate bunions without causing pain. Looking for shoes with a wider toe box will reduce pressure on the bunion and should reduce discomfort.

  • Orthotics: Custom Foot Orthotics can place the foot into a more optimal position, reducing the pressure on the big toe and allowing it to function more effectively. Alternatively, if the big toe has become arthritic, orthotics can be used to change the way the foot functions and stop the big toe moving.

  • Management of callus or corn development: Callus often forms on the “bump” of a bunion from where it rubs on footwear. This can become quite painful and may develop into a corn. Your podiatrist is skilled in painlessly removing this callus and can recommend ways to limit it’s formation.

  • Toe splints and toe spreaders: Unfortunately these do not tend to help, and occasionally even push the lesser toes further away (rather than straightening up the big toe).

In some instances, surgery may be necessary. There are a number of different techniques for bunion correction surgery and these can be performed by an orthopaedic or podiatric surgeon. Your podiatrist will be able to assess the extent of dysfunction in the joint and discuss if surgery may be warranted.

Bunions do not need to stop you doing the activities you enjoy. Contact My Family Podiatry on 07 3088 6116 to discuss ways to manage your bunions and explore your treatment options.

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