Bunions are more than a nuisance—they’re a painful foot deformity that can have a profound impact on quality of life, according to the results of a study that involved nearly 3,000 people in the United Kingdom. What’s more, this pesky problem is more common in women, with over half of women suffering from bunions.
A bunion is a bump that develops on the side of the big toe. As the bunion swells and sticks out, it causes the big toe to point in toward the second toe rather than pointing straight ahead. Bunions alone can be painful, but the research indicates that the more severe the bunion, the more likely a person is to have pain in other parts of her body—which leads to a decline in both general and foot-specific quality of life.
In the UK study, more than one-third of participants had some degree of bunion, with a higher prevalence among women and older people. The bunions affected general health, vitality, social function, and mental health—leading researchers to conclude that bunion treatment does more than relieve pain, but could also improve quality of life.
Why are bunions more common in women? It might be the shoes. Tight-fitting, sharply pointed shoes with high heels do nothing to promote foot health or proper gait and might actually be causing a litany of foot problems, including bunions. Instead, experts recommend shoes with wide toe areas and wide insteps for optimal foot health.
The bottom line? There’s no need to suffer from chronic bunion pain—treatment is available that can improve quality of life. And if you want to avoid bunions altogether, consider bucking the latest fashion trends and instead choose footwear that will keep your feet happy, healthy, and pain-free.
 Menz HB, Roddy E, Thomas E, et al. Impact of Hallux Valgus Severity on General and Foot-Specific Health-Related Quality of Life. Arthritis Care and Research. 2011; 63(3): 396-404.