A bunion is a prominent bump (bony enlargement) on the inside of the big toe joint due to increased pressure on the joint. A shift of the big toe toward the smaller toes often co-exists with a bunion. Bunions are progressive - they usually get worse over time, although some grow faster than others - often causing pain and impacting mobility. Bunions often come with inflammation, swelling and redness on the inside of the big toe joint - & shoes often aggregate the problem.
Genetics - Genetics can make you more susceptible to developing bunions. Often times a parent or grandparent will also have a bunion.
Footwear - Narrow shoes, particularly high heels, can make bunions worse. In fact, they are one of the causes of bunions and one of the reasons bunions develop far more frequently in women. Shoes not shaped like one’s foot can slowly, over time, mold a foot into an abnormal shape leading to a bunion. Check the fit of your shoes but taking the insole out of your shoe and placing your foot on top, if you foot falls outside the edge of the insole the shoe isn't the correct shape for you.
Excessive Pronation - If your arch excessively collapses, often it leads you to push off though the inside portion of your foot leading to increased pressures on the big toe joint, excessive pressure leads to bunion formation and progression.
Non-surgical treatment options:
Wear properly fitting footwear - pay particular attention to the shape of the toe box, the width of the forefoot and where the seams of the shoe run. Look for shoes with enough width to accommodate the forefoot comfortably (not squeezing the foot) and with a round or square toe box. Pick materials that can stretch, but remember that seams do not stretch. If a seam runs over the area of the bunion it can cause further irritation. Shoes with a rocker sole can help to alleviate bunion pain and assist with forwards progression. Avoid high heels as they shift more pressure forwards onto the ball of the foot.
Custom foot orthotics - used to re-distribute pressure and control abnormal biomechanics, can aid in slowing down bunion progression and help relieve bunion pain.
Toe spacers (over-the-counter or custom-made) & night splints - toe spacers are often a soft silicone or gel and can be worn throughout the day to help with toe alignment. Splints are most often worn at night to help limit progression of the bunion deformity.
It’s important to seek treatment if your bunion is causing you discomfort as untreated bunions can result in painful complications.