It’s hard to believe that bunions can cause so many problems. But these deformities in your feet can cause a wide range of issues, from pain while walking to difficulty finding shoes that fit. Without treatment, you can even develop more foot damage and balance problems.
At Put Your Feet First in Scottsdale, AZ, Dr. Mark Forman offers pain-free solutions that can prevent your foot problems from worsening.
Bunions don’t develop overnight
Anyone can get bunions, but women have a higher risk than men. It’s also more common to develop bunions as you get older. Even though bunions usually affect your big toe, they sometimes appear in your small toe too.
When you have a bunion, you have a foot deformity forcing your big toe bones out of its normal position. This causes the top of your toe to turn towards the other toes, and the joint at the base of the toe moves outward. As your joint protrudes, you develop a visible bump on the side of your foot.
Common causes of bunions
You can develop a bunion for a variety of reasons. Contrary to popular belief, wearing high-heeled shoes and footwear with narrow toes aren’t the primary causes. They can undoubtedly exert the type of pressure that quickly worsens an existing bunion or hastens a new bunion’s development.
It’s possible to inherit a structural abnormality, which makes you prone to bunions, or maybe your foot didn’t develop properly. For example, if you have flat feet and overpronation, it can cause abnormal foot biomechanics and added pressure contributing to bunions.
It’s also possible to sustain a foot injury that affects how you walk, causing a bunion to form. In many cases, having a weak ligament in the midfoot can allow your big toe to move out of position.
Regardless of the primary underlying cause, it takes bunions years of irregular foot movement and ongoing pressure to develop. That’s why aging increases your risk of this common foot condition. Without early treatment, your bunions can worsen over time, and the normal structure of the bone can even change permanently.
How bunions affect your feet
Each time you take a step, the affected joint at the base of your toe — the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint — flexes. This constant movement causes your bunion to grow progressively larger and more painful.
In time, your big toe can bend underneath or over your second toe, adding pressure that forces this toe out of alignment too. In severe cases, your second toe can start pushing against the third toe as a result.
Bunions can also cause:
- Calluses: thickened, painful areas where toes rub against each other
- Hammertoe: a deformity making the tip of your toe bend downward
- Bursitis: inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs cushioning the bones in your MTP joint
- Arthritis: cartilage damage in your MTP joint
As you shift your weight from your painful big toe, you can also put added pressure on the ball of your foot. As a result, swelling and inflammation develop, leading to a condition called metatarsalgia. When you have metatarsalgia, you often feel as though you have a pebble in your shoe. Metatarsalgia also causes symptoms like an aching or sharp pain in the sole of your foot.
How bunions impact your overall life
Bunions cause more than foot problems — they affect your whole body. You use your big toe to maintain balance and for leverage when your foot pushes off the ground. The MTP joint also helps you bear weight and distribute the load evenly to prevent excessive pressure.
When a bunion damages your toe and joint, it significantly impacts your foot function. You not only experience structural changes that lead to problems, but pain can also interfere with your ability to walk and balance properly. Having bunions increases your risk of falling.
At Put Your Feet First, Dr. Forman offers customized treatments based on your deformity and pain severity. He always starts with conservative therapies first, like shoe inserts, weight loss, anti-inflammatory drugs, and ice to reduce inflammation. For severe bunions that don’t respond to these treatments, Dr. Forman might recommend bunion-correction surgery.