What is a bunion?
A bunion, know in medical terms as hallux valgus, is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. The bump is created by swelling of the fluid filled sac and an abnormal bony area on the first joint of the big toe.
The larger part of the bump is caused by a portion of the head of the metatarsal bone (the bone just behind the big toe) tilting sideways and angling out from the foot. This movement of the bone and swelling of the joint cause the big toe to angle in towards the adjacent toe.
Bunions frequently form in early adulthood and worsen with age, especially if accompanied by arthritis.
A Tailor’s bunion, also called a bunionette, is a prominence of the fifth metatarsal bone at the base of the little toe. This prominence occurs on the outside of the foot, the opposite of a bunion, which occurs on the inside of the foot. Tailor’s bunions are not as common as bunions, but they have similar symptoms and causes.
What causes a bunion?
The medical consensus is that if you have a genetic tendency towards bunions, bad choices in footwear – especially high heels – will make it very likely that you’ll develop bunions. Like every other body trait, we inherit the good and the bad from our parents, and it’s no different for the characteristics of our feet. In fact, some podiatric surgeons have performed bunionectomies on multiple generations of feet in the same family.
We frequently inherit flat feet, low arches, abnormal bone structure, or loose ligaments and tendons. Any of these biomechanical variations may contribute to the development of bunions and the accompanying pain in your feet. When feet with already weakened biomechanics like these are stuffed into pointy or high heeled shoes too frequently, the stress placed on the front of the foot often results in a bunion. Other contributing factors are an occupation that demands a lot of time on your feet; wearing shoes which do not support your feet correctly; hormonal changes and sudden weight gain like that experienced during pregnancy; and obesity.
Read more about bunions at Harvard Women’s Health Watch
In a survey of people from cultures that do not wear shoes, no cases of bunions were found, lending credence to the hypothesis that bunions are caused by ill-fitting shoes.