‘I have developed bunions. What can I do?’

May 25, 2020
One Starts at 60 reader has developed bunions and is asking for help. Source: Getty.

Q: I have developed bunions and can’t walk very far without getting sore feet. What can I do? My doctor says nothing can be done. I have used toe sleeves but they only make it worse. I’m on a Department of Veterans’ Affairs pension because I have a total and permanent incapacity. Hope you can help.

Bunions are largely attributable to the foot type that you were born with. If you look at foot X-rays, some people have foot bones in a slightly angled position that makes them more prone to bunions; flat feet can also contribute. This is because if your metatarsal bones (connected to the bones of the toe) are angled or not in the right position, your feet muscles can pull the big toe slightly to one side instead of straight up when you walk.

Lots of people spend money on orthotics but there’s not a lot of high quality evidence to support their effectiveness in treating bunions. Night splints are of limited help as most of the harm is being done when you walk. The best option is to get shoes that will accommodate the deformity. If you’re a DVA TPI your podiatrist may be able to prescribe these for you if your doctor writes a referral. Otherwise the only real option is surgery. I always say to my patients, that it’s best to put up with the pain, get good shoes and if you can’t live with the pain, then consult with a surgeon. But be prepared that surgery is not without risks and can alter foot function. For example, it may result in less bend at the ball of the foot, which may cause further bother.

Starts at 60 previously spoke to Dr Frances Henshaw about the causes and risk factors of bunions. She said they’re more common in women, people with flat or low arches and rheumatoid arthritis.

She added there’s a big misconception when it comes to the causes of bunions – many people think that bunions are caused by shoes — especially high heels — but according to Henshaw, bunions are in fact hereditary and have nothing to do with fancy footwear. They can develop as a result of an inherited structural defect in the foot.

However, if you’re prone to the condition, wearing high heels can encourage their development, she explained, advising women to save narrow high-heeled shoes for special occasions and opting for more comfortable and supportive footwear, such as running shoes, for every day wear.

If you have a question for Starts at 60’s health experts, email it to [email protected].

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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