A more serious sort of everyday foot problem is bunions, which are formed inside the foot, rather than on the surface. A bunion is frequently a form of arthritis, or bone degeneration. It usually takes the form of a bony bump on the outside of your big toe, although bunions can sometimes appear on the top of the big toe joint or even on the little toe (often called a "bunionette").
More than four million Americans have bunions. Most bunions are painful because they're accompanied by bursitis and/or because they're so prominent that there's no way to avoid bumping and rubbing them. A bunion may also force your big toe to point inward and rub against the next toe, eventually causing the second toe to become a hammertoe.
A common myth about bunions is that they're caused by wearing high heels or other shoes that exert pressure on the outside of your big toe. While ill-fitting shoes can certainly make bunions worse, bunions are mostly hereditary. If your parents have bunions, you stand a good chance of having them, too. Bunions tend to come in pairs. In other words, if you have a bunion on your left foot, you'll probably also have one on your right foot.
The best immediate treatments for bunion discomfort include the following:
- Apply ice to the area several times a day.
- Soak the affected foot, or feet, in a mixture of one cup vinegar to one gallon warm water.
- Pad the insides of shoes with moleskin or foam rubber cut into a doughnut shape (the hole is for the bunion).
- Switch to shoes with a bigger toe box, or, best of all, wear sandals that leave the bunion area exposed.
In the early stages of bunion pain, a doctor may prescribe orthotics (insoles) and exercises that may stabilize the foot and prevent further development of bunions. For continuing pain, however, you may need bunion surgery, which can often be performed on an outpatient basis.
Bunions are also troubling because they can lead to other foot problems, including hammertoe. Learn more about hammertoe and its treatments on the next page.
To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:
- Foot Injuries:
Find out how to avoid unpleasant injuries to your feet, or at least
reduce pain and prevent infection after they occur, with these simple
- How to Care for Your Feet:
Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with
these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right