A bunion is a painful bump near the big toe. Wearing tight-fitting, high-heeled shoes does not cause bunions, but it sure can aggravate them. Learn more.
If you notice a bump not far from your big toe that is red and throbbing, you’ve probably got a bunion. An enlarged bone on the joint at the bottom of your big toe, a bunion is an abnormality in the structure of the bones in your feet.
Bunions are a common cause of foot pain — and wearing the wrong shoes can make them feel even worse. “Shoes do not cause the bunion; they aggravate the bunion,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky.
There are two common causes of bunions — and according to Dr. Mauser, heredity is one of them. The second is when the foot has a flaw, where the joints allow the long bones in the foot (the metatarsals) to spread out more than they should. This is called hypermobility.
There is a separation between the first and second metatarsal, explains Mauser. “The first metatarsal deviates outward from the second, [and the muscles] pull the toe back in so you get a bump on the side of the foot.”
Recognizing a Bunion
A bunion is “characterized by pain and redness or blisters or bursitis of the big toe joint,” says Mauser. The big toe joint appears large and may stick out from the edge of the foot, will be sensitive to shoes and may become quite painful. The big toe also tends to point to the side — toward your other toes — instead of straight ahead. Your big toe may even cross underneath your second toe.
A bunion could also cause:
Difficulty moving your big toe
Skin that appears thicker around the bottom of your big toe
A large lump at the bottom of your big toe
Swelling of the big toe joint
Bunion Risk Factors
A few risk factors can aggravate a bunion and make it painful for you:
Arthritis. Arthritis can cause changes in walking patterns, which may cause a bunion.
The wrong shoes. Whether too small, very narrow, or with a very pointed toe, the wrong shoe can aggravate bunions. Most women wear shoes that are too small for them.
Shoes with high heels. They may look great, but shoes with high heels can squeeze your toes, rub on your big toe joint, and aggravate a bunion.
Being female. Nine out of every 10 bunions occur in women, and most females in the United States have them.
If you have foot pain that looks like it could be caused by a bunion, make an appointment with a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Diagnosis usually consists of an exam, some questions about the type of pain you have and the shoes you wear, as well as a family history of foot problems and your medical history relating to foot problems or injuries. It may also include an X-ray.
Based on how severe your bunions are and how much pain they cause you, the podiatrist may suggest different shoes, protective padding on your feet, or surgery to treat your bunions.
Foot pain can be a bother, making it difficult to even walk around. If you’ve given your feet the once-over and suspect a bunion is to blame, head to the podiatrist to find relief.
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