Genetics or Shoes: What Really Causes Bunions?

Dr. Corey Fox
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Director of Massapequa Podiatry Associates

Bunions are GeneticHere’s a question we get all the time: can shoes give me bunions? While we can provide some counsel, the truth is that it’s not quite as simple an answer as you might think.

There’s actually a fair amount of discussion and disagreement in the medical community over the role of genetics vs. shoes in bunion formation. What does seem to be true, though, is that most cases seem to have an element of both in the background.

First, genetics: Some people are naturally more prone to developing this particular foot deformity than other people, based on the fundamental shape and structure of their feet. Every foot is different, and some feet are just better than others at cushioning, balancing, and distributing impact forces. The bad news (or good, depending on your lineage) is that these sorts of foot mechanics are often closely tied to genetics. So, if you have parents or grandparents with bunions, there’s a good chance you’re at high risk yourself.

That said, there’s often a clear link between bunion formation and footwear, too. Shoes with high heels, narrow and constricting toe boxes, or both, can push toes together and put intense pressure on the front of the feet, potentially destabilizing the joint at the base of the big toe. While sticking to comfortable, supportive, well-fitting shoes can slow or even stop the progression of bunion formation, stilettos and tight pumps are almost certain to accelerate the process.

So, back to the opening question: can years of bad shoes actually cause bunions in otherwise normal, structurally sound feet, or can they only take an existing weakness and make it worse? Fundamentally, the truth is that we don’t know for sure.

However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a prescription for you. Bad shoes are bad news and can lead to a host of foot problems and pain beyond just bunions. If bunions run in your family at all, you’re taking a bad risk and making it worse. Stick with practical footwear as often as possible, and if you notice a proto bunion begin to form, come see Dr. Corey Fox at Massapequa Podiatry Associates. Being proactive and addressing the problem at the earliest opportunity will greatly increase your odds of preventing pain and progression before they begin, without resorting to surgery. To schedule an appointment, call us today at 516-541-9000.

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