By Deborah Fields, BSc (Hons), PgDip, MCIPR
A bunion is a bone deformity causing a protrusion from the foot at the edge of the big toe and at its base on the metatarsophalangeal joint. A bunionette, also known as tailor’s bunion, is a lump of bone on the edge of the other side of the foot at the base of the little toe.
Both conditions can cause pain when patients wear shoes or put pressure on their feet. Also, inflammation can develop making feet sore and the skin shiny and red. Bunions and bunionettes are most commonly experienced by women. Nine out of ten people with the condition are females. However, men can also be affected by this medical condition. Children can also develop the deformity but serious damage can be prevented by taking timely and adequate steps to treat signs of a lump on the child’s foot at the growing stage.
Although a predisposition to developing bunions or bunionettes is considered to be mainly a genetic problem as the condition tends to run in the family, there are many ways that patients can relieve the symptoms associated with the condition.
Choice of Shoe
Ill-fitting shoes can have a significant impact on people who are prone to bunions and bunionettes. Shoes that are too tight-fitting can rub against the bones of the feet and stimulate the development of a bunion or bunionette.
Wide fitting shoes which provide some space across the width of the feet reduce the friction on the bone. Pointed shoes with a narrow front can cause rubbing, so broad toe areas that are not too short are preferable.
Heels can also have a negative impact on feet and encourage the development of bunions. Patients are advised to choose shoes that are around 4 cm in height or less. Higher heels can put pressure on the already irritated area and aggravate the pain the patient feels.
Patients should also aim for shoes that have cushioning in the sole to offer comfort to the foot so that the bunion is supported from further impact on hard floors.
The patient can also use protective pads on the foot to protect the painful bunion area when he or she wears shoes. The pads are usually made of fleece or silicone gels. The pad can be stuck by adhesive on to the foot so that they do not move or they can be attached by a loop which can be placed over the toe. Similar pads can be used in case of bunionettes as well.
Some patients use medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to gain pain relief from the bunion or bunionette.
Some patients use orthotics which are medical devices designed to help change the structure and movement of the muscular and skeletal system. They are usually prescribed by a medical expert called an orthotist. Orthotics are tailored to the needs of the individual who uses it. They can be customized for the person who has a bunion or bunionette to support their foot in the shoe.
Orthotics have a number of functions that are very useful. They can restrict movement, control how a joint works, and reduce weight-bearing. An orthotic for the foot can help to realign the foot and spread the forces that the foot, particularly the bunion or bunionette, is exposed to.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc
Last Updated: May 31, 2016