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What Causes Bunions? (It Might Not Be What You Think)

In the past, some doctors held that wearing tight, narrow shoes was a primary cause of bunions. However, more recent research shows that while footwear can certainly exacerbate bunions, it's not necessarily what causes bunions.

So what does cause bunions to form? It likely has more to do with genetics than footwear.

Research shows that people with certain inherited foot shapes are more likely to develop bunions than others. In these individuals, the natural bone structure causes pressure to be unevenly distributed over the foot, putting stress on the metatarsophalangeal joint, where the big toe meets the foot.

So, in people prone to developing bunions due to the shape of their feet, footwear is more of a catalyst for bunions rather than a cause of bunions.

What else causes bunions?

One of the most common cause of bunions besides genetics is injury. Foot injuries can cause the big toe to become repositioned, resulting in the formation of a bunion.

The American Podiatric Medical Association also lists the following as possible causes of bunions:

  • neuromuscular disorders
  • congenital deformities
  • flat feet or low arches
  • arthritis
  • inflammatory joint disease
  • occupations that involve undue foot stress (ballet dancers, for example)

Learn more about bunions »


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