The terms may sound funny- but bunions and hammertoes are no laughing matter.
“They’re descriptive terminology for defining deformity in the toe,” says orthopedic foot surgeon Dr. Andrew Belis, who is on staff at Lee Memorial Health System. “The big toe is the bunion, where there’s a bump sticking out on the side of the foot. Hammertoe is when your toes curl up, and that’s an imbalance between the tendons, the bones, and the structures of the foot.”
People may have a predisposition, based on the mechanics of their feet. But these deformities are seen more often in women, mostly likely because they are fashion victims, done in by their choice of shoes.
“If you’re going to wear a pointy shoe that will push the toe over, that could potentially aggravate problems. And obviously, when you change the way that your foot is functioning, let’s say in a higher heel, it does affect the mechanics a little more,” Dr. Belis says.
If you want happy feet, you need to be supportive. Saving the ‘killer heels’ for special occasions or swapping them out for flats gives your body a break. Wearing the right shoes may actually slow the progression of a problematic foot.
“If you’re wearing more protective shoes, something with support in through the arch, it can actually slow the process down or at least minimize it,” says Dr. Belis. “Sometimes just a simple matter of wearing wider shoes, or more supportive shoes, can help most people.”
Pain from severe bunions or hammertoes can be treated with injections or surgery to return the bones and tendons into proper position. But the first line is to know when to tow the line.
“When you notice pain with these conditions, you should try to get them checked out a little sooner than later. And that way you can potentially do something to prevent any worsening,” says Dr. Belis.