Bunions (those bony protrusions that develop beneath your big toe and, occasionally, beneath your baby toe) can be a major hassle when it’s time to choose a shoe.
When you have a bunion, your toe joint becomes enlarged, forcing the affected toe to crowd against the others. This crowding puts pressure on your big or baby toe joint, and that pressure pushes the joint beyond the normal profile of your foot. The result is a bump on the side of your foot that is often (but not always) painful.
Why do people get bunions?
While tight-fitting shoes and genetics can contribute to your likelihood of developing bunions, your body’s biomechanical makeup will have the most impact on whether or not you develop a bunion. If your foot is too flat, for example, it can force your toe joint to move beyond its normal range. This unexpected pressure can affect the joint’s growth and cause it to shift outward, forming a bunion.
Previous joint damage or arthritis can also put you at greater risk of developing a bunion. People with rheumatoid arthritis are particularly at risk for bunions, because their immune systems target joint linings, causing inflammation and pain and, in the case of the big toe joint, frequent bulging and abnormal growth.
How can I tell if I have a bunion?
While a large bunion is easy to spot, it can be trickier to spot these bony growths in the early stages (when they are most treatable.) The first sign that you’re developing a bunion will usually be a hard lump or bump that forms on the side of your foot. It will likely not be a large one, but it will be firm to the touch and may be covered by a rough skin patch resembling a callous.
You may notice redness if the area right around your big toe; there may also be slight swelling. The area may hurt when you are touching it (or even when you aren’t) and that pain may even extend to the ball of your foot.
Sometimes, the skin around your big or small toe joint will start to look shiny. When you touch it, it can often feel warm.
Any or all of these signs are warnings that you are starting to develop a bunion; they are all indications that it’s time to see your foot doctor to begin treatment.
Finding Shoes with a Bunion
Of course, there are many people who miss or ignore the early bunion warning signs, ending up with large protruding bumps. Once a bunion has developed to this point, it can be almost impossible to find shoes that fit your foot properly—especially if you only have a bunion on one of your feet.
In fact, according to new research conducted by shoe developers, 97.3% of women with bunions have bought a pair of shoes for a special occasion, only to discard them due to discomfort after just one wearing! Can you imagine how frustrating that would be? I mean seriously—who’s got time (or money) for that?
Of course the answer is “no one,” which is why the same shoe company that conducted this research is now offering what they consider to be the perfect solution: their new shoe line, called Sole Bliss shoes. Each style in this shoe line is designed with an invisible stretch panel that is meant to support and pad the bunion area of the foot. Each pair of shoes also contains layers of memory foam cushioning in order to keep the remainder of the foot comfortable. The line offers a range of styles and sizes; most pairs sell for about $200.
Are Bunion-Friendly Shoes Right For You?
While I must applaud the innovative design idea behind this new shoe brand, and while I certainly approve of women embracing foot wear that makes their feet feel good, I do want to reiterate the fact that treating bunions in their earliest stages can eliminate the necessity of purchasing a pricey pair of support shoes.
Bunions don’t form overnight; they grow and develop over time. If you see your podiatrist at the first notice of a change in your foot’s anatomy, it is possible to slow or stop the bunion growth before you reach the point where shoes don’t fit. Often, treatment can be completely non-invasive! Before we even talk about surgery, I always try to stop bunion growth using simpler interventions like changing your shoes, padding your bunion or wearing shoe inserts to help correct some of the contributing biomechanical issues.
So, if you’ve already noticed that your shoes are starting to fit differently, or if you’re experiencing any kind of foot pain, come in for a consultation as soon as possible. You just might save yourself a lot of pain (and hundreds of dollars, to boot!)