bunionHallux abducto valgus or Bunions are a common foot complaint thought to affect around 1% of the adult population. Women are said to be 75% more likely than men to get a bunion throughout their lifetime. They are also much more typical in people over the age of 60, however they can occur at any age.


So what is a bunion?

A bunion can be described as a bony lump that may or may not be painful. The bony prominence represents a misalignment of the joints in the big toe which may also be accompanied by additional bone development. Often the bones of the big toe begin to move towards the lesser toes, whereas the metatarsal bone that lies below the big toe deviates in the other direction.


Why does a bunion develop?

There are thought to be a variety of causes of bunion development including:

Certain diseases and conditions:

  1. Inflammatory arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
  2. Hypermobility syndromes, resulting in ligament laxity of the feet and ankles.
  3. Neuromuscular diseases that predispose you to developing a certain foot type, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

Other causes:

  1. A genetic predisposition for inheriting features of a foot that lead to bunion development.
    1. This includes foot pronation (flat feet)
  2. Contrary to popular belief ill-fitting footwear has not been proven to cause a bunion to develop, however can certainly exacerbate an existing condition.
  3. A long 2nd metatarsal bone or short 1st metatarsal bone.
  4. Reduced movement of the big toe joint.
  5. Leg length discrepancy.
  6. Trauma to the big toe joint.
  7. Dislocation of the 2nd toe joint.
  8. Decreased foot muscular function.


What are some of the complications of having a bunion?

There are a variety of other effects resulting from bunion development and include some of the following: crowding of the smaller toes, hammer toe deformity and corn development, difficulty walking and selecting footwear and reduced balance which could contribute to falls. Therefore it often becomes important to undergo some changes to prevent and manage some of these complications.


Treatments for bunions:


Conservative: There are a number of ways to reduce down symptoms before resorting to surgical intervention which include some of the following:

  • Regular maintenance to help prevent corn and callus formation.
  • Changing your footwear to reduce pressure on the bunion.
    • Deep toe boxes and wider fitting footwear often help to relieve symptoms.
    • Leather style footwear or footwear with a stretchy fabric upper also allows the shoe to better conform to the foot.
    • Running style footwear generally tends to work quite well.
    • Avoiding high heeled shoes and shoes with narrow toe boxes are also advised to reduce the pressure placed on the bunion.
  • Bunion Splints.
    • At the current time bunion splints have not shown much improvement in symptom reduction, therefore they are not considered an effective treatment.
    • Also known as arch supports or shoe inserts have been found to help with pain but at this stage there is no evidence to suggest they are able to prevent progression or reduce the deformity.


Surgery: Once a bunion has become painful and cosmetic concerns are also involved, the only effective treatment is surgical intervention.  Surgery is only reserved for the most severe and painful cases as there are some risks and complications involved. There are many different types of procedures for bunion correction and can depend on pain levels, cosmetic appearance, age of the person undergoing the procedure and surgeon preference.


If you have any concerns regarding bunions don’t hesitate to visit your local podiatrist today!