Many women suffer from bunions — a deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. A bunion develops when the first metatarsal bone of the foot turns outward and the big toe angles toward the other toes, causing the joint to jut out. The resulting protrusion may rub on the inside of shoes, and the entire joint may become stiff and sore. Eventually, exercise and even walking may become difficult. But you can do a lot to relieve pain and prevent bunions from progressing. Simple measures can relieve pressure on the joint and improve foot mechanics, reports Harvard Women's Health Watch in its June 2011 issue.
The first step is to wear the right kind of shoe. Shoes should have a wide, flexible sole to support the foot and enough room in the toe box (the part surrounding the front of the foot) to accommodate the bunion. Shoes with a back should have a sturdy heel counter (the part surrounding the heel) to keep the heel of the foot snugly in place. Heels should be no higher than an inch (the higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of the foot).
To protect the bunion, cover it with a moleskin or gel-filled pad. A orthopedist or podiatrist may recommend semisoft orthotics (shoe inserts) to help position the foot correctly as it strikes the ground. You can also wear a splint at night to hold the toe straight, which may help ease discomfort.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.