While some causes of bunions can’t be avoided, such as genetics and other diseases, you can take steps to minimize risks and avoid making developing bunions worse.
What Are Bunions?
Many women have bunions, which are deformities of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions develop when the first metatarsal bone in the foot turns outward, and the big toe points inward, causing the joint to protrude. Because most shoes don’t accommodate the resulting protrusion, pressure is put on the misaligned joint, which eventually causes the bursa (fluid-filled sac that surrounds and cushions the joint) to become inflamed. Eventually, the entire joint becomes stiff and painful as a result.
Bunions can be triggered by poor choices in footwear (wearing narrow shoes or shoes with pointed toes can trigger bunions, for example), but bunions are largely hereditary because some people's inherited foot type is either more prone or less prone to bunions than others. People who have low arches, flat feet, or loose joints or tendons are at increased risk for developing bunions. The shape of the metatarsal head (top of the metatarsal bone) also can affect your risk: if it is rounder, it means the joint is less stable and more likely to result in a bunion when squeezed into shoes that have narrow toes.
Even heels with rounded toes may increase bunion risk. High heels exacerbate bunions because they tip the body’s weight forward, forcing the toes into the front of the shoe and adding pressure on the joint. This may explain why bunions are 10 times more common in women than in men.