What Causes Bunions?

Bunions are painful, and if you have them, you already know that they can affect your life in a number of ways including pain when walking, difficulty in wearing shoes and deformity of the big toe.  But what are some of the causes?

A bunion is formed due to a deformity in the alignment of your big toe.  The misalignment causes the tendons and ligaments in and around the joint to pull and stretch, which then causes the tissue around the joint to become swollen and uncomfortably painful.  An additional bone may also form, all of which leads to an enlargement of the joint at the bottom of your big toe.

Looking at the foot of a person who suffers from a bunion, it looks as if he/she has a growth on the side of the upper padding of the foot.  So now that you know what a bunion is, let’s find out what the causes of a bunion are and whether they can be prevented.

The Shoe Can Indeed Make the Woman

The majority of bunion sufferers are women.  In fact, 90% of people who seek treatment for the painful condition are female.  One factor experts point to as an increased risk for the development of bunions is wearing shoes that do not fit properly, especially high-heeled, pointy and extremely narrow shoes.  We all know women who wear shoes that make you wonder how they got their foot in them, or how they walk in them once their tootsies are encased in the contraption.  Six inch heels, impossibly narrow toe boxes, such as cowboy boots, you name it, it is out there, and women are determined to wear them.  There are women who say that these types of shoes make them feel great.  The problem lies with the way the shoes push and manipulate your foot inside.  Pushing it from both sides or forcing it forward into the narrow shoe box can cause the bones of your foot to shift. Those “must have” heels put an enormous amount of pressure on the joints at the base of your toes, causing that part of the foot to support the entire amount of your weight with each step you take.

Want another reason to ditch the heels and cowboy duds?  Experts do not agree on the enormity of the effect that shoe choice has on the development of bunions, but they do agree that it is the only contributing factor that can be significantly controlled!  Be nice to your feet, and always remember they are just as old as you are.

Darn You, Aunt Jane

Heredity is another major factor in the likelihood of developing bunions.  Have you ever looked at your feet and said, “I have Mom’s feet” or have your mother ever told you that your feet look just like Aunt Jane’s.  Foot shape and structure is hereditary, and some types of foot structure have an increased chance of forming bunions.  So if mom and Aunt Jane suffer from bunions, you have an increased likelihood of suffering from one as well.  Don’t let dad off the hook though, while it is more common for women to have them, men do have them as well, and are just as susceptible to genetics as women.

Another Reason to Skip Birthdays

Age plays a major factor in developing bunions.  A mind-blowing 67% of people ages 65 and older have bunions.  This is in part due to the fact that as your body ages, your foot loses its fat padding; joints and ligaments are more susceptible to injury. In addition, it flattens out and becomes wider.  Combined with age-related ailments such as arthritis in the joints, bunions not only become a big issue, but a very painful one.  While skipping birthdays is a great idea in theory, in reality, we must each deal with aging and the related inconveniences that come with it.

Flatfoot is More Than a Southern Dance

We have already determined that the structure of your feet plays a significant factor in whether or not you will develop bunions.  Being flatfooted, or if you have pronation of the foot (meaning your foot rolls in), greatly increases your chance of having bunions due to the position of the bones.  Special shoes and inserts for shoes are available to help correct these conditions. Other than the obvious benefit of correcting the problems you are having now with your feet, you may also lessen your chances of developing them and other painful conditions later.

Injury and Nerve Conditions

Previous injury to the toes and foot that have weakened the bones and joints, or have caused changes to the foot structure, can lead to an increased likelihood of developing bunions.  Past traumas like sprains and fractures of the toes and feet can lead to a weakening of the joints and ligaments, much like aging.  Common nerve conditions in the feet can generally be related back to either flatfoot or the wearing of improper footwear, which as we have already discussed, increases your risk for having bunions.

While each of the listed factors can cause bunions to develop, having a combination of factors increases your chances substantially.  For instance, a woman in her forties, whose family members have bunions and who also likes to wear high heels is at a much greater risk of developing them.  Bunions are not only painful, but they can affect the quality of your life.  If you suffer from this condition, speak to your doctor as there are treatments that may be able to alleviate some of the symptoms and ease the pain.