THE FACTS ON FOOT BUNIONS:
WHAT ARE BUNIONS?
Bunions, also known as hallux valgus, are often described as looking like a bump or enlargement on the side of the big toe. A bunion occurs when the joint at the base of the big toe becomes enlarged and repositioned to lean toward the second toe. The joint at the base of the little toe can also be affected.
Pain or stiffness in the big toe is one of a handful of bunion symptoms. Bunions can cause the foot to evert or turn outward, making it difficult to walk. While you may never develop symptoms from having a bunion, symptoms usually become more noticeable as the condition progresses.
Symptoms can include:
- A bump on the outside of the base of the big or little toe
- Pain or decreased motion of your big toe, which may make walking difficult
- Redness and swelling of your big toe joint
- A feeling of burning or numbness
- A thickening of the skin at the affected area
- Development of corns or calluses where the toes overlap
While regular bunions affect the big toe, Tailor’s bunion – also known as a bunionette – is a bump that forms on the side of the little toe. The name stems from the way tailors used to sit, cross-legged with one leg tucked under the other, putting pressure on the little toe. Tailor’s bunions are not as common as regular bunions, but they have similar symptoms and causes.
WHAT CAUSES BUNIONS TO FORM?
Bunions form when the bones in the larger joint of your big toe becomes misaligned. There are multiple factors that can contribute to bunions. For example:
- Wearing poorly fitting shoes, especially ones that are too narrow or restricting, such as high heels. Continuing to wear these shoes can also make symptoms worse.
- Inherited factors or abnormal walking motions causing undue stress on your feet
Although bunions tend to be most common in women, anyone – even children – can get them.
Sometimes X-rays are ordered to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions.
HOW TO HELP PREVENT BUNIONS?
Bunions tend to form slowly over time, so while you may not notice until it is fully formed, there are some things that can help lessen the chances of developing one. An important way to prevent the pain and worsening of bunions is to choose the right shoes. It is best to avoid wearing shoes that compress or cramp the toes. Shoes with a wide toe area work best. Narrow-fitting shoes are also best to avoid. Make sure that your shoes don’t squeeze or press into any part of your foot. High heels and shoes with pointed toes in particular can often worsen bunion pain and make the condition worse.
HOW TO RELIEVE BUNION PAIN?
If you have bunions, symptoms and pain may be mitigated by taking a few simple steps, like:
- Wearing well-fitting shoes to help slow down the progression of bunions and alleviate discomfort. Children can also develop bunions and should wear properly fitting shoes as their feet are still developing
- Using a bunion cushion to alleviate discomfort. Dr. Scholl’s Bunion Cushions with Duragel® technology are clinically proven to ease bunion pain by reducing shoe pressure and friction.
- Applying ice: Using ice on your bunion can help to reduce swelling and soreness.
- Changing your shoes: Try shoes with a wide toe box and avoid high heels and shoes with a pointed toe.
- Shoe inserts: Insoles and Inserts provide padding that can limit bunion pain. The use of felt or foam padding on the foot may help protect the bunion from irritation. Depending on the structure of your foot, custom insoles might add further support and repositioning.
- Padding, taping or splinting: To control pain and stress on your bunion, your doctor may be able to assist you with using a bunion pad, bunion splint or bunion corrector.
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers, as needed.
See your doctor if you find your pain persists even after self-care, or if your pain prevents you from doing your usual everyday activities. Having long-lasting pain, a visible bump on your toe joint, reduced mobility of your foot or toe, and difficulty finding shoes that fit properly are also good reasons to see your doctor. For a severe bunion, the doctor may recommend a bunion surgery, or bunionectomy, to relieve the symptoms associated with having a bunion.