What Is a Bunion?
A bunion is complex structural deformity the affects the foot around the base of the biggest toe.
Essentially, that joint (known as the metatarsal phalangeal joint, or MTP) becomes unstable and shifts out of alignment. The toe itself starts to push toward, against, and sometimes even over the neighboring toe. Meanwhile, an enlarged, bony bump forms along the inside of the foot at the base of the toe.
In addition to the unsightliness of the bump itself, bunions are associated with pain, swelling, restricted motion of the toe, and inability to wear normal shoes comfortably. Corns and calluses can also form where the misaligned structures rub against the inside of footwear.
For an athlete, the downsides are obvious. You may lose the ability to play to your full potential, or play without pain … or play at all.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions do not have a single cause, but may be instigated or worsened by a complex combination of factors. These may include:
- Genetics. The foot structure you were born with may place excess force on the MTP joint. If so, you may simply be genetically predisposed to developing bunions. It is well known that bunions do tend to run in families.
- Foot injuries. Both traumatic and chronic injuries affected the front of the foot may increase the risk of bunion development later in life.
- Footwear. It’s not clear whether poor shoe choice can cause a bunion if you aren’t already genetically predisposed to getting one. However, they can certainly irritate an existing bunion and accelerate the progression.