Anyone with a bunion can tell you that living with one is not easy. In its early stages, it becomes swollen, red, and painful, but as it progresses the symptoms get worse and it becomes difficult to wear shoes or even walk.
It also throws your body out of alignment. As the bunion grows, it changes the joint and causes your big toe to turn toward your other toes. This means your weight is no longer evenly distributed over your whole foot, but rather, you rely on your little toes and smaller joints to support your body weight. This can cause pain in your legs, knees, hips, and back.
And although bunions typically appear at the base of your big toe, your pinky toe isn’t immune. When it shows up on your little toe, it’s often called a bunionette or a tailor’s bunion.
If you have a bunion, it’s important to seek treatment right away to stop it from progressing into a debilitating condition that requires surgery. The expert team at Wiregrass Podiatry in Enterprise and Dothan, Alabama, can expertly treat your bunion at any stage, but he also has some helpful advice for preventing bunions from forming in the first place.
Who’s at risk for bunions?
Before we dive into the bunion-prevention strategies, it’s important to understand that bunions can be caused by a variety of conditions, and not all bunions are preventable. Bunions tend to run in families, in which case you might be destined to get one or more.
They can also develop after an unavoidable injury or may be related to another medical condition, such as arthritis, Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or cerebral palsy.
If you know you’re in one of these high-risk groups, you need to watch your toes and take precautions that may help prevent bunions from forming or at least slow their development.
If genetics, injuries, or neuromuscular disorders are not factors, then you may be able to prevent bunions by making sure you keep your feet aligned and by ensuring nothing you do or wear changes the structure of your joints. Here are some steps you can take.
Kick your high heels to the curb
Most bunions are caused by cramming your feet into high heeled shoes that force your feet, your toes, and your body weight onto the joint of your big toe. Over time, this shifts your joint out of alignment and begins the development of a bunion.
Tight shoes (high heeled or not) are another no-no. Your toes need breathing room, and you should be able to wiggle them with your shoes on. Cramped spaces lead to bunions.
Think you know your foot size? You might be surprised. Feet grow and change shape as we age, so that favorite pair of sneakers you bought in college may actually be too small for you now. Our podiatrists recommend getting your feet measured every time you buy a new pair of shoes to give yourself the best chance of avoiding bunions.
Work out your feet
If you keep your feet in shape, you may be able to avoid bunions. A strong musculoskeletal structure can keep your joints aligned and bunions at bay. Try foot exercises like picking up a pencil with your toes, or curl, flex, and point your toes while you’re sitting at your desk or watching TV.
Monitor your metatarsophalangeal (big toe) joint
When you know bunions run in your family, keep an eye on your feet. Place your feet on a blank piece of paper and trace the outline, then write the date. Do this once or twice a year and note how the shape of your foot changes. If you see a significant difference, especially if you’re feeling discomfort or pain and notice that your shoes fit differently, come see our team for an evaluation.
What should you do if you have a bunion?
If despite all your efforts you end up with a bunion, sometimes all you need to do to get relief is to change your footwear or wear orthotics inside your shoes.
In many cases, when we catch your bunion early, we may be able to help you coax it back into the proper position with strategic exercises and a splint.
Sometimes, a bunion has become a serious problem. When this happens, one of our podiatrists may recommend surgery to remove the bunion and realign the joint.
Whether you’re trying to prevent bunions or get relief from them, the team at Wiregrass Podiatry can help. Simply call us for an appointment or book it online.