The most common cause of serious foot pain is a bunion or hallux valgus, the swelling or enlargement of the joint where the big toe connects to the foot. A bunion can become especially painful when it reaches the point when the joint begins to rotate outward, causing it to bulge from the inside of the foot.
Bunions may be an inherited condition. They may develop with no recognizable cause or can be brought on by wearing poorly fitting shoes.
Treatment for bunions varies depending on their severity. The single most important treatment for bunions is wearing shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not create pressure areas. This alone often alleviates the pain. High-heeled, pointed-toe shoes should be avoided as they put pressure on the front of the foot and create an unnatural position for the foot and toes.
Other non-surgical treatments include prescribed orthotic devices; lifts and inserts to change the shoe’s pressure points.
If a bunion is not addressed early, it can become very painful and even affect the quality of life. In severe cases, the pain from bunions can be disabling and surgery may then be the best solution. Surgery is usually done to relieve pain and should not be done simply to improve the appearance of the foot.
Bunion surgery is performed to realign the bones, ligaments and tendons to bring the big toe back into its correct position. In the last ten years, new techniques, materials and an emphasis on maintaining mobility throughout the healing process have made bunion surgery extremely successful and less painful than in the past. Rarely are casts applied, and patients normally use crutches for only a week to 10 days. With anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, most patients only miss a week or so of work. Complete healing takes between two and four months.
Recommendations for Healthy Feet
- Don’t buy shoes that are uncomfortable or too tight.
- Don’t assume you know your shoe size. Feet can continue to grow well after age 40.
- Don’t assume you wear the same size in all shoes. Size consistency varies by manufacture and style.
- If a shoe feels tight, buy the next size larger and use pads to adjust the fit if necessary.
- If a shoe doesn’t fit properly, take it to an orthotics fitter to see if any adjustments can be made.