If the shoe fits: beating bunions

Yes, we love diamonds, but shoes come a close second as a girl's best friend. That is, unless you’ve got bunions.

They look unsightly, can make you say bye-bye to your favourite Louboutins, and can cause you to cancel your date with exercise or a shopping trip due to pain. So if you’ve got a bunion, what can be done to stop them from ruining your fun?

What is a bunion?

Hallux valgus, also known as bunions, are abnormal bumps that force your big toes inward. If you’ve got a swollen, bony lump on the outer area of your big toe, restricted big toe movement and pain, it is probably a bunion. You might also have hard, red, irritated skin on top of the bunion bulge and where your big toe and second toe cross.

What causes bunions?

Bunion
One of the most well-known causes of bunions is squeezing feet into tight, pointy shoes, which force your big toe inwards. High heels also increase the pressure on your forefoot. But it’s not only those who love a killer heel who increase their risk of bunions. Sports that require constant stopping and starting, such as tennis or basketball, put massive pressure on your feet and toe joints, forcing the big toe over towards the other toes. Over time a bony material will form and ultimately hold your toe in this position.

It’s also thought that having bunions can run in families. That could be because bunions are more common in people with extra flexible joints, and that can be hereditary.

How can I stop my bunion from getting worse?

Whatever stage your bunion is at, it’s possible to stop it from getting any worse by switching your choice of footwear. That means saving the pointy, high heels for special occasions and reaching for a wide-toed shoe instead.

Finding the right shoes

Finding a shoe that fits over your bunion can be difficult. It’s not simply a case of buying the next size up as that could allow your foot to slide forward, causing damage to your toenails. Instead, look for a wider fitting shoe, and if you’re looking for sports trainers, you could try a men’s style, which are normally wider than women’s. Your shoe should be supportive and hold your foot securely. An open or woven upper, that allows some stretch, may be more comfortable than closed shoes.

Orthotics which are placed inside your shoes to help realign the bones of your foot can also help to relieve the pressure on your bunion and ease the pain. Or try foam bunion pads, designed to protect your bunion and reduce pressure and rubbing, as you walk and run around.

Other ways to help

Toe spacers, to hold your toes in line as you sleep, can also help keep your toes straighter. Exercises for your toe joint won’t get rid of your bunion, but can help the joint to be stronger and more flexible.

Surgery

If you’re fed up of the pain and look of your bunions, surgery is considered the only real treatment available. Following bunion surgery your big toe should be straighter, so your foot should fit more comfortably in a normal shoe.

Discuss the options for surgery with your consultant as there are lots of surgical treatments for bunions, depending on its severity. It may involve removing the bunion (a bunionectomy) or releasing or tightening ligaments of the toe. The bones of your big toe may need to be cut (osteotomy) and your smaller toes may also need realigning. In severe cases your toes may be fixed into place with wires or tiny screws (arthrodesis), although fixing your toe in this way will mean an end to wearing high heels ever again.

There are also relatively new, minimal access techniques available. In this form of surgery small incisions are made, which can mean quicker recovery times in some cases. BMI Healthcare’s orthopaedic consultants can advise you on the options available and what you can expect from surgery.

To book your consultation call us on 0800 157 7753.

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  • Runners Health and Wellbeing Get inspired for a healthier you. Find the latest in healthy living and fitness tips, as well as our medical and treatment updates.
  • Consultant Consultant Q&As Read the interviews with some of our leading consultants.