What it is: A bony bump on the side of the big or little toe joint, often with red and tender skin. More than half of American women have bunions, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Because the toe joint flexes with every step and pushes toes toward each other, the bigger your bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. "The pain from mine was so great I started walking on the side of my foot, which caused pain in my hip plus an additional bunion on my little toe," recalls Susan Stokes, 49, an elementary school teacher in Corona Del Mar, Calif. She eventually had her bones surgically shaved to realign her toes and readjust the ligaments on the sides of her feet.
Causes: Tight, pointed, and high-heeled shoes; arthritis; fallen arches, which can make feet roll inward (also known as pronation) and push the toe joint out.
How to deal:
- Get custom-made orthotics to strengthen the arch and slow the bunion's progression.
- Wear shoes that have room around the toes and heels lower than two inches in height to avoid aggravating the bunion. Stick-on pads, available from your local pharmacist, can also reduce friction.
- Get a paste of marigold extract (Tagetes species) and spread it on the bunion. According to a study published in The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, marigold paste, covered with a protective pad, helped reduce the size and pain of bunions more effectively than a placebo. "The flavonoids in the plant act to reduce the inflammation in the joint," says Tariq Khan, deputy director of the Marigold Clinic at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital in England, which has used marigold-based preparations to treat bunions and other foot ailments for more than 10 years. (To find out more about the products used at the Marigold Clinic, visit www.marigoldfootcare.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Consider surgery if your toes overlap to restore proper function.