Bunions: What's to Blame, Your Shoes or Your Genes?

Trying to keep your feet warm and dry during boot season in Monticello, Utah, can be a challenge if you have painful bunions on your big toes. At Animas Foot & Ankle, we understand your predicament, and we don’t want your feet to freeze this winter. Our expert podiatrists are here to help.

Maybe you’ve been wearing shoes that are too tight, or maybe you inherited your bunions, or maybe both. What’s to blame — your shoes or your genes?

It may not only be your mother’s fault

Swelling, redness, and a sore big toe — the bony bump at the base of your toe that may be preventing you from wearing boots — is a bunion. A bunion is a structural problem that develops slowly until one day, your shoe feels too tight, your foot hurts, and you may even find it difficult to move your big toe.

But what caused this problem? Where did the bunion come from? Should you blame your stilettos or your mother’s family for bad foot genes?

While it’s tempting to blame your family heritage for your foot problems, heredity may only be part of the issue. Women develop bunions more frequently than men, and while bunions — like the shape of your nose, curly hair, and dimples — do run in families, those narrow high heels haven’t helped, either.

Most likely, you have a bunion on your big toe as a result of an inherited structural defect, and your footwear is making it worse.

The verdict is still out: The exact cause of bunions is unknown

Even if you inherited bad foot structure or wore tight shoes in your younger days, you may or may not develop a bunion. It’s essentially a chicken-and-egg debate. Experts disagree whether tight, high heels cause bunions or if they’re simply a contributing factor in making your bunions worse.

Arthritis is also a likely contributor to the list of bunion causes. If you have rheumatoid arthritis — a chronic condition that causes joint inflammation — you may be even more susceptible to developing bunions. So if you inherited faulty foot structure, wear tight shoes, and have arthritis, you have all of the risk factors for bunions, but nobody knows for sure which came first: the bunion or the complications.

And there’s more. If you suffered a foot injury at some point in your life, you may also be more prone to developing bunions later on — especially if you’re a woman over 40 years old. Or if you have a condition that affects your muscles and nerves, such as polio, or your feet didn't develop properly from birth, these factors also increase your risk of developing bunions.

Beyond the bunion: Why you have trouble finding comfortable boots

Beyond the bunion itself, when you leave it untreated, a bunion leads to other painful foot conditions that make it even harder to find a comfortable pair of boots. Conditions that often accompany bunions include:

A bunion doesn’t go away on its own, unfortunately, so you need to treat it either nonsurgically or surgically if it becomes unbearable. To relieve pain, you can take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain-relieving anti-inflammatory medication. You can tape, pad, or splint your toe to keep it separated and cushioned when you’re wearing shoes.

It’s also a good idea to avoid standing for long periods of time whenever possible and to apply ice to your bunion after a particularly long day on your feet. You may want to stop wearing stilettos (if you still are) and buy some wider, more comfortable and supportive shoes. Additionally, foot orthotics for your shoes may relieve pressure on your big toe.

If home remedies don’t relieve your bunion pain and your next step is wearing your fuzzy slippers out in the snow, bunion surgery may be something to consider. The expert podiatrists at Animas Foot & Ankle provide state-of-the-art surgical treatments for bunions and the associated foot complications so you can get back to wearing boots and any other properly fitting footwear.

Don’t blame your mother. Call our office today to schedule a consultation or request an appointment through our online form.

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