Bunions are medically known as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus. Hallux refers to the big toe region of the anatomy and valgus or abducto valgus refers to the movement of the big toe joint away from the center line of the foot. As the joint drifts outward, the big toe tends to drift toward the second toe and may actually lie under or over the second toe which will slowly cause misalignment of the remaining digits.
Bunion deformities are largely hereditary, as is your foot type. Bunions will often develop in a person that overpronates, which means they have an excessive inward rolling of the ankle and thus a flattening of the arch. The pronating foot type rolls off of the side of the big toe joint, creating excessive toe off pressure on the joint. Shoes with narrow, pointed toes and/or high heels will only serve to aggravate the pre-existing biomechanical problems. Other possible causes may include arthritis, trauma, or fracture of the big toe joint.
Bunions seem to be most prevalent in women, first becoming prominent in the late teens to early 20’s. Research indicates that the wider female pelvis coupled with a tendency toward looser and more flexible joint structures makes women more susceptible to foot related problems. Research further indicates that women develop bunions 10 times more often than men.
Bunions will develop slowly, but at any point can be prevented from progressing. Most often, when the bunion is developing is when there will be most pain. Often times, when there is no pain, the bunion is “dormant” or, for the time being, has ceased development. Orthotics will not eradicate a bunion but will serve to slow further development by relieving excessive pressure from the joint. With a biomechanically corrected foot, the orthotic will help to guide the foot so that is allowed to resupinate or toe off from the front to slightly outside of the toes. Additionally, the use of shoes with a high and wide volume toe box and stability in the rear foot will lessen pressure to the big toe joint from foot collapse.