If the joint that connects your big toe to your foot has a swollen, sore bump, you may have a bunion. Bunions sometimes occur in families, but most come from wearing tight shoes. Nine out of ten bunions develop in women.
More than half the women in America have bunions, a common deformity often blamed on wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels. Too-tight shoes can also cause other disabling foot problems like corns, calluses and hammertoes.
If you have developed a bunion, the base of your big toe has probably grown larger and will noticeably protrude. The skin over it may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take and the bigger your bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Bursitis may set in. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way beneath it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. An advanced bunion may make your foot look grotesque. If your bunion becomes too severe, your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
Most bunions are treatable without surgery. Prevention is always best. To minimize your chances of developing a bunion, never force your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit. Choose shoes that conform to the shape of your feet. Look for shoes with wide insteps, broad toes and soft soles. Avoid shoes that are short, tight or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than 2 1/4 inches. If you already have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy or soft and that do not put pressure on it. This should relieve most of your pain. You may want to have your shoes stretched out professionally. You may also try protective pads to cushion the painful areas.
If your bunion has progressed to the point where you have difficulty walking or experience pain despite proper fitting shoes, you may need surgery.