High Heels and Bunion Pain

After a long day at work or a fun night out wearing your favorite high heels, chances are your feet hurt. But the root of your discomfort is bunion pain, you might worry that your shoe choice is doing more than causing achiness — it could be the source of this medical problem. 

Here at New Canaan Podiatry in New Canaan, Connecticut, board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM, treats patients with progressive and painful foot conditions, like bunions. And while Dr. Tauber understands a nice pair of heels can make your outfit, she wants you to understand how high heels may be affecting your feet.  

You may not need to stop wearing heels altogether, but staying educated about the impact of high heels on bunions is important if you struggle with these bony protrusions. Take a moment to learn what you need to know!

What are bunions? 

When a bony protrusion or bump develops at the joint of your big toe joint (called the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint), you have what is called a bunion. These bothersome bumps develop over time as the joint compresses and moves out of place. 

The displacement of the joint causes your big toe to bend in, toward your other toes. As more time progresses, the big toe moves more and more, pushing your joint out and creating a painful bunion. 

At first, your bunion may be small or resemble a tiny sore. As you continue to put pressure on your feet when you walk or stand, the bunion gets bigger and bigger. 

What’s more? Your bunion can also get red and inflamed or swollen, making the skin on your foot sensitive to the touch.   

Anyone can get a bunion, but having a family history greatly increases your chances of developing one. Other risk factors for bunions are having hypermobile feet, sustaining a foot injury, having flat feet, repetitive stress (usually from a job that requires you to be on your feet more than normal), and wearing improper footwear. 

What’s the link between high heels and bunion pain?

Bunions are the direct result of pressure over your MTP joint. Improper foot mechanics cause the MTP joint instability, and this instability can cause the development of bunions.

Since bunions tend to run in families, researchers hypothesize that a certain inherited foot type makes you more prone to developing bunions. This is because a faulty foot structure can cause improper foot mechanics, increasing pressure on the MTP joint.  

So what does this have to do with shoes and how do high-heeled shoes affect bunion development?

Shoes that don’t fit correctly can make an underlying structural or stability issue worse. This can cause a bunion to form or become worse. High heels push your toes forward, into an unnatural position, which increases the amount of pressure they’re under.

Not all women who wear high heels develop bunions, and the jury is out as to whether footwear alone can cause bunions or if it’s a combination of inherited foot structure paired with shoes. 

The experts agree, however, that wearing high-heeled shoes exacerbates the underlying structural problem, making bunions develop more quickly and progress faster once they start. 

If you have bunion pain and are concerned your shoes may be a contributing factor, contact Dr. Taub and the team at New Canaan Podiatry by calling 203-263-9052 or book an appointment online now!

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