How to prevent bunions

One in three people suffer from bunions – and 90 per cent of those with bunions are women. Find out what causes bunions and what you can do to prevent them – no ugly footwear required!

By Chantel Simmons

What causes bunions
What causes bunions?
Most people who have bunions have a hereditary genetic condition called overpronation. This means that when you're standing or walking, your feet have a tendency to roll inward toward the big toe joint. Over time, the toe joint deforms, causing a bunion.

While both men and women can develop bunions, women develop them more often because of their choice in footwear, explains Dr. Hartley Miltchin, a Toronto-based podiatrist. Not surprisingly, high heels are the major cause.

"We're meant to walk on flat feet so that our body weight is distributed equally between the ball and the heel of the foot," says Dr. Miltchin. "When we wear heels, 90 per cent of the weight is on the big toe joint."

But even flip-flops and ballet flats can cause bunions. "Any shoe without proper support for your feet can cause them to roll inward." Pointy shoes – where toes are squeezed into a cramped space – can cause bunions not only on the big toe joint, but also on the small toe (aka a "bunionette").

How to prevent bunions
It's never too late to prevent bunions from forming or getting worse. Here are some tips to keep you bunion-free:

• Make an appointment with a podiatrist. Most people have mild signs of bunions before they notice any discomfort. Foot problems can often be identified – and prevented – before the age of six, so if you're a parent, now is the time to take your kids for a check-up if you have bunions in your family. You don't need a physician's referral to visit a podiatrist and the initial consultation is often partially covered by provincial and extended health care plans. During an initial visit, the podiatrist will take several X-rays of your feet to see if there's been any shift in your toes. Then, he will identify ways to prevent bunions. Many insurance plans also cover follow-up visits, orthotics, custom footwear or surgical fees (if required).

• Wear lower heels. Swap your four-inch heels for less-than-two-inch heels. Opt for a wedge or a chunky heel over stilettos, which will give you more support. And choose a round-toe pump over a pointy-toe shoe, which will give your toes more wiggle room.

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