We all want to have healthy, nice-looking feet. That doesn’t always happen, though. Whether it’s hard calluses on your heel, funny-looking nails, or toes that are bent out of shape, there is usually something about your feet that you don’t like. For a woman, a common deformity that might make you hesitant to show off your feet is a bunion—a bump on your foot near your big toe.
How a Bunion Forms
Research doesn’t show exactly why some people develop this abnormality and some don’t, but heredity seems to play a role. That’s because the way your foot is formed determines how it functions as you walk. Think about it. If you have normal arches, your foot stays flat while you walk, and your toes will lie straight with each step. If your foot rolls toward the inside because of weak arches, however, pressure is put on the side of your big toe as you push off for each step. That pressure makes the tip of your toe bend toward your second toe while the joint at the base juts out in the opposite direction. Years of walking this way makes that bony bump on the inside of your foot more pronounced.
Add in shoes with pointed toes, which cramp your big toe into an even smaller space, and you can see why women develop this deformity more often than men. High-heeled shoes produce the same effect. They shove your foot forward into the front of the shoe, pinching the toes together. They also throw off your normal stride. Your feet may wobble from side to side, aggravating the pressure on your toes.
The early symptoms may include redness or swelling around the joint, calluses on the side of or under your toe, and pain when walking that may come and go. Over time, the toe will also lose some of its range of motion. The sooner you seek treatment for this deformity, the better. The symptoms will not go away without treatment of the problem that is causing them.
How to Treat a Bunion
As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, you should have your foot examined. At Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. we will do a thorough foot exam, including a flexibility test that requires you to move your toe up and down. We will ask about when you first noticed the problem and what activities made the pain worse. We may use X-rays to determine the severity of the deformity and its underlying causes. Then, we can recommend the best treatment course for you.
Treatment may be something as simple as changing your shoes to accommodate a roomier style that doesn’t cramp your toes. Many of our patients have found relief with custom arch supports designed to redistribute weight evenly over the foot. By reducing pressure on the toes, orthotics like this can slow the development of this bony deformity as well as relieve your discomfort.
At our office, we will show you how to use ice packs to relieve swelling and pain. We can also try taping or padding your feet into a normal position to relieve stress on the bunion and reduce your pain. We may have you use a pain reliever, or inject medication into the joint. If these conservative methods still leave you with a painful deformity, we may suggest surgery to correct the problem.
Do what you can to prevent bunions by choosing roomy, supportive shoes, and by stretching and manipulating your toes to keep them flexible. If the bump on your foot is red and painful, don’t delay. Call Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. in Massapequa, NY at (516) 804-9038 and set up a visit. We want to help you enjoy life unhampered by painful feet.