A bunion is a bony bump on the inside of the big toe that gets worse over time, and can make it difficult to find shoes that fit well without rubbing.
Medically referred to as Hallux Abducto Valgus, meaning the deviation of the big toe closer towards the lesser toes, a bunion describes the changes in alignment of your big toe joint, leaving the joint protruding outwards on the inside border of the foot.
The development of a bunion is progressive, typically spanning many years - and often decades. It affects both men and women, and while some view it as a cosmetic issue as they do not like the appearance of the bunion and want to slow down its progression, others suffer uncomfortable symptoms including:
Unfortunately, as the big toe joint plays an important role in carrying out a healthy gait pattern, having a bunion can alter how our foot pivots through propulsion (where our foot bends at the toe and lifts off the ground to take the next step), which can affect the way that our knees and even hips move when we walk, causing additional stress on these joints.
The nature of bunions is often genetic in nature, and is paired with a range of factors that excessively overload the big toe over a period of time, leading to changes in the alignment of the joint and the surrounding soft tissues. These can include:
We should note that when we say ‘genetic in nature’ or others report that bunions are “passed down in families”, it is not the same way that we describe eye colour or nose shape being passed down in families. Bunions themselves are not inherited, but what may be inherited is the risk factors or characteristics of the bones and tissues of the feet, like a person’s foot type and the tendency to pronate (roll inwards). When, in this example, a flatter foot type applies more pressure to the big toe joint over time from rolling in with every step (and often paired with other factors, such as tight or narrow footwear), this can then lead to the development of the bunion. The good news is that by intervening to correct the characteristics that overload the big toe joint, this can help slow down and limit the progression of the bunion.
Bunions are best managed as early in life as possible as this is when the big toe joint still has the greatest flexibility and where gait is still as close to normal as possible. While you can’t reverse a bunion when changes to the joint have occurred, you can help to slow its progression, and you can help prevent pain and other symptoms from developing.
As bunions cannot be reversed, our goal is to help you walk and live comfortably, reduce or eliminate your pain, prevent the recurrence of symptoms like corns and callus, and slow the progression of your bunion. We help do this by using:
What about bunion splints?
While many people believe that bunion splints can correct their bunion deformity and help straighten their toes, this is not the case. Bunions are often a rigid, fixed deformity with significant changes to both the joint and the surrounding tissues to an extent that cannot be corrected by a splint. Splints may only help to offer mild symptom relief in some cases - often in flexible, earlier stage bunions.
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of your bunion, or want to help slow the progression of your bunion, our trusted podiatry team is here to help.