When a big toe starts getting too close for comfort to its next-door neighbor, bad things happen. And those bad things – bunions – happen to a lot of people every year.  Approximately 18 million American women and around four million of their male counterparts report having a bunion, also called hallux valgus, according to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment. But what makes bunions so common, especially among women?   

To answer these questions, you first need to understand how bunions develop, and that means understanding the mechanics of the big toe.

The big toe contains two main joints. The bigger of two is the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP), which connects the first bone of the big toe (the phalanx) to the long bone of the foot (the metatarsal). Bunions form at the MTP joint when it moves out of its correct alignment. When that happens, the long metatarsal bone shifts towards the inside of the foot while at the same time angling the phalanx bones of the big toe inward towards the second toe. 

Eventually, a painful bony bump that appears red and swollen will emerge on the inside of the foot at the site of the joint. The big toe can work its way inward for months or even years before you first notice the bump.

So, why does the big toe start pushing inward, causing a painful bunion to start pushing outward? For many individuals, it can be a matter of genetics. If one of your parents had a bunion, you’ll have a higher chance of developing the condition as well. Additionally, many common inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause bunions.

But the reason that bunions disproportionately develop in women is quite simple: footwear. Many fashionable styles of shoes, like those with a narrow, pointed toe box, can squeeze the toes into an unnatural position and put extreme pressure on the toe joint. Years of such intense pressure and awkward positioning ultimately take their toll.

Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for bunions, ranging from at-home remedies that can alleviate pain and pressure to minimally invasive or traditional bunion surgery for more advanced cases that can permanently resolve the underlying joint problem.

Is a Bunion Slowing You Down? Schedule Your Appointment With Coeur d’Alene Foot and Ankle Clinic Today.

At Coeur d’Alene Foot and Ankle Clinic and Surgery Center, our skilled and committed team of physicians and staff provide exceptional care and treatment for all foot and ankle problems, including bunions. We offer the most advanced corrective surgical procedures and specialize in the Isham minimally invasive surgery techniques recognized by orthopedic and podiatric surgeons worldwide.

Call us today at (208) 666-0605 to schedule your appointment and learn more about minimally invasive foot surgery.