Bunions are often considered to be a female-specific foot problem, but the truth is, these deformities frequently occur in people of all genders and ages (apart from the very youngest in our society—at least until conventional footwear is adopted). For women who wear high-heeled footwear frequently throughout their life, the likelihood of developing a bunion is quite high. However, due to the flawed shape and construction of modern shoes, anyone who wears conventional footwear is at risk of developing a bunion, including men.
Contrary to popular belief, bunions are not hereditary, and they do not form suddenly as a growth off the bone. Bunions occur slowly, over time, and are the result of a partial dislocation of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint (i.e., the joint between your big toe bones and their corresponding metatarsal bone) caused by injurious footwear. Indeed, bunions, as well as other types of passive toe deformity, develop gradually, usually over decades, but sometimes even over a period of just a few years, if the predominant footwear worn during this time incorporates tapering toe boxes and other harmful design elements.
While high heels and other narrow toe box dress shoes possess the most harmful shape (and have the most significant repercussions on toe alignment), the majority of conventional footwear available to consumers today still holds the big toe in a bunion configuration. Running shoes, hiking boots, fashionable sneakers, and even sandals often have narrow toe boxes or footbeds, along with heel elevation, toe spring, and even built-in “arch support.”
By pinching the toes together, elevating the heel and toes above the ball of the foot, and propping up the main foot arch, conventional shoes force a deviation of the big toe toward the other toes, resulting in an eventual partial dislocation of this toe and, for some people, a partial or even complete loss of big toe mobility.
By wearing foot-healthy shoes that allow your foot to function like nature intended, many people have found that they can combat the development of bunions and work toward regaining optimal toe splay and alignment. Pairing men's or women's foot-healthy footwear with Correct Toes toe spacers, Injinji toe socks, and Pedag metatarsal pads or Strutz foot pads can, in many cases, work quite well for rehabilitating existing bunions and returning the big toe to its normal anatomical position, or for simply promoting optimal foot health to prevent future injuries or problems.
Here are some additional resources from our site concerning bunions and what you can do to help prevent or address them using natural (i.e., nonsurgical) methods:
If you would like even more in-depth info about bunions, consider signing up for our free Bunions e-course, along with any other natural foot health topics you find interesting. You may also find value in our article entitled How to Shop for Shoes, which provides you with all the insight you need to make informed choices about your footwear selections.