Contrary to popular belief, bunions are not (entirely) caused by ill-fitting shoes. They are largely a genetic disorder, according to our clinical director and podiatrist Dr Mark Reyneker. Almost 90% of bunion sufferers have at least one family member who also have bunions. This strongly implies that your chance of developing bunions increases dramatically if you have a genetic predisposition for them. That said, wearing the incorrect shoe can aggravate pre-existing bunion problems.
Many bunions are asymptomatic, and patients tend to only see a doctor after friction and pressure from wearing the incorrect footwear causes pain to them, and worsens the bunion until standard shoe sizes no longer fit comfortably.
A revolutionary bunion treatment
Treating bunions can be hard, especially if they are severe. Dr Reyneker has developed a bunions treatment which relieves the pain they cause using extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), which can help to mitigate pain and inflammation caused by bunions. By stimulating blood flow to the cartilage around the affected area, the soft tissue can be encouraged to heal better, leading to a decrease in swelling and reducing the visible size of the bunion. It follows similar principles as ESWT for patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis, who have responded well to the treatment.
That said, ESWT is not the sole solution – while it is helpful in managing the pain caused by the bunion, in order to correct the deformity, we still have to turn to traditional treatments such as splints, correction of irregular walking patterns and disciplined usage of proper footwear.
Bunion sufferers should speak to a professional podiatrist on whether custom made orthotics or night splints would be appropriate for their circumstances. Patients should also minimise the amount of time they spend in potentially aggravating shoes. Dr Reyneker recommends only using your heels or your tight dress shoes for meetings and special occasions, leaving them at home on days you don’t need them and keeping a more comfortable pair close at hand on days you do.
This treatment was recently covered in The Business Times, one of Singapore’s foremost local newspapers.