Rose Bay Podiatry

Sydney’s Premium Podiatry Clinic

The 5 Most Common Reasons for Developong Bunions

Understanding Bunions: The Top 5 Causes of This Foot Deformity

Bunions, otherwise medically known as a “Hallux Valgus” deformity or a HAV, are a common foot deformity with its prevalence increasing with age and more commonly affecting females.

Bunions are a result of the big toe travelling towards the lesser toes, and the top of the 1st metatarsal (the bone connecting the toe to the foot) moving in the opposite direction causing a lump on the side of the foot.

The changes at this joint can lead to arthritis or joint wear and tear, and result in anatomical changes to your feet, your gait pattern, difficulty in finding comfortable and appropriate fitting footwear and ultimately pain.

Bunions can be sometimes be asymptomatic (pain-free) and only present as a bony deformity, but in some people can lead to swelling, inflammation and pain due to increased pressures while in shoes and walking or the development of a bursitis or synovitis.

What causes a bunion to develop?

1) Hereditary, family history

Genetic factors play a contributing factor in your likelihood to develop bunions. If your mother, father or grandparents have had bunions, you are likely to have also inherited the mechanical structural weakness. Genetic factors that influence the development of bunions can include your natural gait pattern, the anatomical structure of your feet, your foot posture and inherited inflammatory joint conditions.

2) Ill-fitting footwear

Ill-fitting and inappropriate footwear is one of the leading causes for the development of bunions. Narrow, tight and heeled footwear increase the pressure at the forefoot resulting in crowding of the toes and altering the structural shape of the foot. Having correct fitting and supportive footwear is the first step in finding comfort for your feet, and also the best conservative treatment in managing and preventing the progression of bunions.

3)  Anatomical structures of your feet

The human body is designed to work in an ideal alignment, as to ultimately move and work in the most efficient manner. Unfortunately for most, we are not all created the same and in the ideal way. Abnormal anatomical structures such as a shorter 1st metatarsal bone and a longer second metatarsal bone can increase the risk and development of a bunion. The altered anatomical structure can lead to a muscle imbalance in the foot, thereby impacting the structures that help create a stable 1st metatarsophalangeal joint.

4) Foot posture and alignment

Those who excessively pronate, or have a “flat” foot posture are at risk of developing a bunion. Just as a car works, the foot works on different gears to move efficiently and effectively, that is, on a high and low gear. The body is designed to propel off of the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint, this allows the body to work and move in its most efficient state. For those who excessively pronate, they work on a lower gear axis which can result in the body overcompensating and working harder to propel their body forward. Over time this compensatory pattern of walking can lead to muscle imbalances in the foot and encourage the progression of a bunion. Through the use of orthotic devices to correct alignment and with the use of correct footwear, you will be able to move more efficiently and increase foot comfort. 

5) Inflammatory Joint conditions

Inflammatory joint conditions such as Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to a bunion developing. The arthritic alterations to the joint space at the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint, cartilage erosion and exostosis formation, can alter the joint movement and a person’s gait pattern. Therefore lead to misalignment of the joint.

If you are concerned with the position of your toes, have pain in the ball of your foot or think you may be developing a bunion a podiatrist should be your first point of call

Bunions, or Hallux Valgus as they’re formally known, are more than just a cosmetic concern; they’re a prevalent issue that can significantly affect your daily comfort and choice of footwear, particularly as we get older. Interestingly, they tend to affect women more than men. At Rose Bay Podiatry, Duyen Nguyen shares her insights on the top causes of this foot deformity, drawing on her decade of experience in foot care. Here’s a friendlier and detailed? look into the world of bunions, focusing on understanding their causes and the implications for those who find themselves dealing with this condition.

Firstly, let’s talk genetics. It turns out, your family’s feet might tell you more about your own than you thought. If bunions are common in your family tree, you might have inherited more than just your grandma’s eyes; you might also share her foot structure or gait patterns that predispose you to bunions. This genetic insight is vital, as it helps us understand that sometimes bunions are beyond our control, and early intervention could make a world of difference in managing them.

Now, onto footwear, a topic we all love but sometimes, our feet, not so much. Those stylish heels and snug-fitting shoes might be doing your feet more harm than good. Tight, narrow shoes that cramp your toes are a big no-no for bunion prevention. Embracing footwear that loves your feet back, offering them enough room to breathe and move, is key. It’s about finding that perfect balance between style and comfort, ensuring your shoes support your feet’s natural shape and structure.

The anatomy of our feet also plays a starring role in the bunion saga. Not all feet are created equal, and variations in our foot structure, like the length of our metatarsal bones, can set the stage for bunions to develop. This highlights the importance of understanding our own feet’s unique needs and ensuring they get the right support, whether through tailored exercises or the magic of orthotics, to encourage better alignment and reduce the risk of bunions.

Foot posture, especially for those of us with flat feet or who tend to overpronate, adds another layer to the bunion puzzle. Just like a car needs proper alignment to run smoothly, our feet do too. Proper support can help manage flat feet and prevent the excess strain that leads to bunions. It’s all about keeping our feet in their best form, ensuring they carry us through life as comfortably as possible.

Lastly, conditions like arthritis can sneak up on our joints, including those in our feet, leading to bunions. This connection between joint health and foot structure is a reminder of how interconnected our body systems are, and managing one aspect of our health can positively impact others.

If you’re noticing changes in your foot shape, experiencing discomfort in the ball of your foot, or suspect a bunion might be developing, it’s time to chat with a podiatrist. At Rose Bay Podiatry, we’re all about taking a proactive approach to foot health, offering personalised care tailored to your unique foot needs. From preventive advice to innovative treatments, we’re here to support your feet every step of the way.

Don’t let bunions dictate your footwear or lifestyle choices. Get in touch with us today and take the first step towards happier, healthier feet. After all, your feet carry you through life; it’s only right to give them the care they deserve.