Are there bunions in your future?
For millions and millions of Americans, the unfortunate answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
How common are they? Exact estimates are difficult given that many people don’t seek treatment for their bunions, especially if they’re relatively small. However, it’s thought that about 1 in 3 adults suffer from this condition to some degree.
And if bunions run in the family—especially if parents, grandparents, or both have them—your risk may be a whole lot higher than that.
So at this point you might be thinking, “How about some good news, doctor?”
Well, here you go: all hope is not lost.
Unfortunately, bunions are not always 100% preventable, and they have a frustrating tendency to get worse over time even if you’re careful.
There are some things you can do in your daily life to make the situation better. Maybe you will be able to prevent your bunions from developing entirely!
However, even if bunions formation is unavoidable, practicing these strategies can still:
- Delay the onset of your bunions
- Slow the rate at which they get worse, so you can put off surgery longer (or indefinitely)
- Help you avoid painful symptoms related to your bunions as well and as long as possible
In other words, bunion prevention strategies are very much worth the effort for people at high risk of developing bunions, and even those who may already have a small one developing.
Here is your playbook.
Wear Good Shoes
To be honest, this is usually step number one on almost any guide on preventing any kind of foot problem. Shoes are just that important.
So, remember that comfortable shoes that fit great and properly cushion and support your arches are always the best choice.
We’re not saying you can’t look stylish, but style should always come second. Your shoes need to practical and comfortable first.
With bunions, high heels are particularly dangerous because of the way they place all your weight on the front part of your feet when you wear them.
You end up putting a ton of pressure on the metatarsal bones, and particularly where the first metatarsal (middle of your foot, inside edge) connects with the big toe. Destabilize that joint, and bunions often follow.
But it’s not just high heels that are problematic. Any shoes that cramp your toes and don’t give them room to wiggle can put damaging pressure on the joint at the base of the big toe. Many fashionable shoes, high-heeled or not, come with very narrow or pointed toe boxes that can be problematic.
A few handy tips for helping you pick out good shoes:
- Always measure your feet before you buy new shoes and get the appropriate size. Don’t forget that width is just as important as length.
- They should be comfortable to wear from the moment you put them on. If shoes fit correctly, you shouldn’t have to “break them in” before they stop hurting!
- Look for styles with good shock-absorbing insoles and arch support. Avoid high heels or ballet flats.
- If you must wear high heels from time to time, do so sparingly. Chunkier heels with lower height (under 2”) are still bad, but better than the alternative.
Exercise Your Feet
Feet often get ignored when you hit the gym, or do your morning stretches. In fact, most people take their feet completely for granted until they start hurting.
But strong, flexible feet have many advantages. When you exercise your feet regularly, they can withstand more pressure and won’t get injured or sore as easily. And stronger muscles and ligaments that support vulnerable joints will help them resist developing deformities like bunions.
Here are some basic exercises to try working into your routine, once or twice per day
- Calf raises. You might be surprised that an exercise with “calf” in the title would do much good for your bunions. However, calf raises are great for stretching and strengthening your arches—and stronger arches are better able to reduce the amount of force and pressure on the big toe joint.
- Wall stretches. Stand facing a wall, then press your toes gently into the wall to stretch them upward for at least 10 seconds. Then, curl your toes downward and press them into the wall again, stretching them the other way.
- Resistance exercises. Grab a resistance band or, if you don’t have one of those, a long towel. From a seated position, wrap it around your big toe, then push your toe forward while pulling back with the towel.
- Gripping exercises. Use your toes to grip and move objects. Try placing a small hand towel on the ground, then grasping it with your toes and pulling it back toward you 5-10 times. You might also try picking up marbles or pencils from the floor and dropping them into a bowl or cup in front of you.
Get Some Extra Assistance
If your feet are hurting, you have a family history of bunions, or you notice a very small bunion starting to develop on one or both feet, give us a call and schedule an appointment—there’s a great chance we can help you.
Additional tools and treatments we might recommend or prescribe include:
- Padded socks, cushioned insoles or, if necessary, custom orthotics to further reduce the amount of force and pressure you put on your big toe joint when you stand or walk.
- Bunion straps or splints to hold the toe in the correct position.
- More specific advice on shoes and stretching.
What Happens If Prevention Fails?
We will do whatever we can to help you prevent or slow your bunion.
Once the bunion starts to become painful, we will also do everything in our power to help you manage the discomfort conservatively, so that you can avoid surgery and still do your day-to-day tasks comfortably. In addition to the above suggestions, we might also provide cortisone injections or trim corns and calluses to help alleviate the pain.
If bunion pain persists for over a year, or keeps you from engaging in activities that are important to you, you will probably need surgery. So it’s definitely in your best interests to see us for help as early as possible!
Fortunately, we have two convenient locations in El Paso to serve you best. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bruce Scudday, give us a call today!
- Sierra Tower Building office: (915) 533-5151
- George Dieter Drive office: (915) 856-3331