What are Bunions?
If the joint that connects your big toe to your foot has a swollen, sore bump, you may have a bunion.
With a bunion, the base of your big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) gets larger and sticks out. The skin over it may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take. The bigger your bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Bursitis may set in. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way under it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. An advanced bunion may make your foot look grotesque. If your bunion gets too severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
More than half the women in America have bunions, and the cause of bunions is often attributed to wearing tight, narrow shoes, and high heels. Bunions may occur in families, but many are from wearing tight shoes. Nine out of ten bunions happen to women. Nine out of ten women wear shoes that are too small.
Too-tight shoes can also cause other disabling foot problems, like corns, calluses, and hammertoes.
Symptoms of Bunions
The symptoms of bunions include:
The base of your big toe getting larger and sticking out, with the covering skin becoming red and tender
Wearing shoes becoming painful
Walking becoming more painful the larger the bump gets
The big toe pushing the second toe out of alignment
Most bunions are treatable without surgery. Prevention is always best. To minimize your chances of developing a bunion, never force your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit. Choose shoes that conform to the shape of your feet. Go for shoes with wide insteps, broad toes, and soft soles. Avoid shoes that are short, tight, or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than 2 1/4 inches. If you already have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy enough to not put pressure on it. This should relieve most of your pain. You may want to have your shoes stretched out professionally. You may also try protective pads to cushion the painful area.
If your bunion has progressed to the point where you have difficulty walking, or experience pain despite accommodative shoes, you may need surgery. Bunion surgery realigns bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves so your big toe can be brought back to its correct position. Orthopaedic surgeons have several techniques to ease your pain. Many bunion surgeries are done on a same-day basis (no hospital stay) using an ankle-block anesthesia. A long recovery is common, and may include persistent swelling and stiffness.