If you’ve noticed your big toe joint bulging outward in a large, uncomfortable bump that rubs against shoes and makes it harder to walk without pain, you may have a bunion. This is a common bone deformity that anyone can develop, but you don’t have to get one—this is a preventable condition. Since they grow slowly over time, you can treat and eliminate the pain with easy, conservative remedies.
Stopping Them before They Start
Whether or not you develop a bunion depends significantly on the shape of your foot and the shoes you wear. Narrow, pointed, ill-fitting footwear that squeezes your toes will compress your feet, put stress on the ball of your foot, and allow the big toe to become displaced. High heels are particularly notorious, forcing the ball of the foot to support the majority of the body’s weight instead of naturally spreading it between the toes, heel, and sole. High heels also push toes forward into the box of the shoe where they cramp together. Any footwear, however, that does not adequately support the foot’s proper alignment puts pressure on unnatural places. Flat feet and fallen arches also stress the toe joint and distort the foot’s natural alignment. Shoes that support the foot and maintain its proper shape help prevent bunions from forming.
Shoes with wide toe boxes and flexible soles allow weight to distribute normally without squeezing the foot. A heel no more than an inch high with a sturdy heel counter—the part of the shoe that surrounds the heel—helps hold your foot in place. Solid arch support keeps your foot from rolling inward and stressing the big toe joint.
Too Late, I Have a Bunion—What Now?
Treatment for a bunion depends on how severely the joint has been affected. Pain from most bunions can be dealt with through conservative remedies, and surgical options are available if those are not effective. Relieving the pressure on the affected joint is the first step in alleviating pain and dealing with the problem.
Changing your shoes to ones with room for your toes and good support all around can make a difference in the strain put on the ball of your foot. Maintaining a healthy body weight also helps. Padding the painful areas that rub against shoes with moleskins or gel pads from a local pharmacy reduces discomfort caused by friction when walking. Arch inserts or orthotics brace the arch and prevent rolling inward. Toe separators can also keep the big toe in the proper position—this is especially useful for active people, like runners or dancers, who put significant levels of stress on the toes and balls of the feet regularly.
If the bunion is still painful, warm soaks, ice packs applied to the joint, and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin can relieve discomfort. Foot massages or ultrasound treatments, like those offered at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle, may also be effective in alleviating pain. Cortisone shots given directly to the affected area also offer relief, but they do have many possible side effects.
When the Bunion Still Hurts
If, after pursuing conservative treatment for some time, the bunion continues to hurt and impair movement and daily activities, surgery is another option. Experienced podiatrists, Drs. Lee Hoffman, Michael Schey, and Charles Kissel of NorthPointe Foot & Ankle, evaluate the degree of damage and decide on the most effective surgery to realign the big toe.
Bunions are a largely preventable condition. With proper footwear and care, you can support the limbs that support the rest of your body. If your joint does bulge and cause you pain, there are a wide variety of conservative and aggressive treatments to get your feet pain-free and moving again. Don’t wait until you can’t walk anymore to seek help. Contact NorthPointe Foot & Ankle office in Berkley for an appointment or more information by calling (248) 545-0100 or connect with our office through the contact page online.