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Do High Heels Cause Bunions?

High Heel foot pain

High heels may never be a podiatrist's recommended footwear, but is there any truth in the myth that wearing those stilettos will give you bunions?

Many podiatrists state that there is uncertainty over the cause of bunions, but the evidence suggests high heels may be not the real culprit. In some cases, if you are predisposed to bunions you can wear the best shoes in the world and still develop the condition.

If you are prone to bunions, wearing high heels — especially if they are tight around the toes — won't help and may be a direct contributor to the development of bunions. Let’s start off with what a bunion is, then we’ll cover common contributors such as high heels, and close out with some exercises to help minimize or eliminate the occurrence of bunions.

What is a Bunion?

Hallux valgus or bunion is one of the most commonly diagnosed foot ailments. Curious about what is a bunion? A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the joint of your big toe. Without proper foot care, bunions can lead to surgery being the only treatment. There are also beliefs that bunions are genetic. Bunions can be incredibly sore and painful, and it can be difficult to move your affected toe. A bunion is essentially a lump on the joint at the base of your big toe, the metatarsophalangeal joint.

How Do High Heels affect Bunions?

While heels won't exactly cause bunions, they can encourage their development if your feet are susceptible. Wearing high heels forces the weight of your body onto the ball of your foot. If you are wearing narrow shoes, this force then compacts your toes into a small space, which may encourage bunions to form and may exacerbate problems associated with existing bunions.

The lump that's seen with bunions can happen when the big toe changes angle, drifting towards the other toes, a condition known medically as hallux valgus. A bunion can also form at the base of your little toe — sometimes referred to as a tailor's bunion or a bunionette.

Your Gait Might Be Causing Your Bunions

High Heel Gait

For many people, bunions can be due to the way they walk rather than the shoes they wear. The way you walk, or gait, is influenced by many factors, some of which are inherited. For instance, people who have flat feet are more likely to develop bunions, as are those with very flexible joints. These conditions predispose the foot to develop a bunion and associated conditions such as arthritis.

How do you know if your gait is to blame for your bunions? By visiting a podiatrist, they may determine if you have an abnormal gait which may be to blame for uneven pressure on your foot which can lead to bunions. Your gait is your typical walking pattern. If you have improper foot mechanics, you may be prone to developing bunions.

While some believe bunions to be completely genetic, some studies show that isn’t the case. Katy Bowman, MS, shared some great insights about how and why bunions develop as well as some thoughts on how to relieve that foot pain in her book Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief. Bowman shares that “both the evidence and laws of physical science point to the fact that the majority of bunions are self-induced through footwear choices and gait.” According to Bowman, one of the biggest things you can do to prevent or stop the growth of bunions is to stop wearing shoes with toe boxes that are too small.

How to Manage and Avoid a Bunion

In worst-case scenarios, bunions can be corrected surgically, but why wait to go under the knife to have them corrected. If you're a fan of high heels but would like to make fashion easier on your feet, consider these suggestions:

  • Save high heels for special occasions rather than wearing them every day.
  • When wearing heels, opt for a lower heel which will reduce the pressure being forced onto your toes.
  • Alternate heel heights on different days to vary the pressure being placed on your muscles and joints.
  • A wider heel, rather than a narrow one (such as a stiletto) gives more stability so you are less likely to twist your ankle.

Take particular care when wearing very high heels on an uneven surface. Overbalancing can cause serious injuries, such as ankle sprains or fractures, which often require long-term rehabilitation. If you wear heels regularly, your calf muscles can contract and become tight which in turn can negatively affect your posture and your gait, so regular calf stretching can help.

Our team recommends strengthening exercises as well as stretching to help alleviate bunion pain as well as prevent it from happening in the first place. Learn some of the best foot exercises for bunion pain relief and prevention in a recent blog. Another great way to provide foot pain relief from a long day of fashionable high heels is a pair of foot alignment socks. This foot care solution for bunions can be simple and effective all while you sit watching TV or even while you sleep.

My Happy Feet has patented alignment socks that do just that while providing a comfortable daily foot care treatment for bunions, bunionettes and most common foot ailments. Often these can be worn overnight and help to position your toes while lengthening and stretching leading to relief from bunion pain. Buy a pair today by visiting our online store. Check back with us every month as we tackle common foot pain issues as well as solutions to foot pain relief.


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