Common Causes of Bunions

What causes bunions?

While developing my home bunion treatment, I spent a lot of time trying to answer the all important question: what's the cause of my bunions? I figured that as long as I had no clue as to where my bunions came from, it would be impossible to choose from the bunion cures and treatments I found.


Almost all resources I consulted mention restrictive footwear (narrow, high heeled, and pointed shoes) as one of the most important causes of bunion development.

I didn't find that explanation very satisfactory though – my big toes had already started bending towards the others well before I wore my first pair of pointed – and not extremely high heeled – shoes at age 20 or 21.

But I do admit that the shoes I've worn in the past may have accelerated the development of my bunions. It turns out that in societies were people don't wear shoes, bunions are almost non-existent. That convinced me of the fact that there indeed must be a relation between my bunions and the shoes I (used to) wear.

By wearing pointed shoes and high heels you put more pressure on the joint of the big toe and the bone leading up to it (the first metatarsal bone). The area gets irritated and swollen as a result. When it rubs against the inside of your shoe – what happens when you're wearing narrow shoes – bunions may start to develop. (I think this is the main reason why these celebrities developed bunions on their feet.)

However, it isn't recommended to trade in your high heels for just flip-flops either. Just read the following article, and you'll know why: Do Flip Flops Cause Bunions?.


And what about inheritance? Could it be that I'm prone to developing bunions just because my mother has them (and my grandmother did as well)? And one of my sisters has bunions too. (My other sister has very nice feet, with beautiful straight toes – you'll understand I envy her each time I see her feet!)

Podiatrists however agree that inheritance isn't a major factor in developing bunions. But what you do inherit are your foot type and the nature of your ligaments.

A certain foot structure

Not all feet are the same. Some people are born with a foot type that makes bunions more likely to develop. When the bone leading up to your big toe (the first metatarsal bone) is relatively short or elevated, this makes you roll in your ankle as you walk. Rolling in your ankle means added pressure on the big toe joint.

You can read more about this subject on my page about orthotics.

Loose ligaments

Another condition that can be inherited is the nature of your ligaments. If they are loose (like mine are), your feet and ankles are very flexible. Again, you are more likely to roll in our ankles as you walk, thus over taxing the joint between our big toe and the bone leading up to it (the first metatarsal bone).

Loose ligaments may also be caused by hypothyroidism, as Mark Starr explains in his book Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. This can be the cause of a wide array of problems, and lax ligaments is one of them.

Way of walking

However, our way of walking is not only determined by our foot structure and the nature of our ligaments. It's also determined by the surface we walk on each and every day. This surface doesn't vary a lot anymore – most of the time it's quite level. But walking on a level surface that much is not what the human foot was designed for.

I always notice this when we're on a walking holiday (me and my husband are avid walkers). I can walk a lot longer on uneven terrain than I can on a paved road. On a paved road your feet have to subdue the same amount and kind of pressure step after step. It is possible that this causes a type of repetitive strain injury – with bunions as a result. (But I'm not willing to give up walking – yet!)

Certain activities

Except walking long distances on a level surface there are more activities that can cause bunions. Like ballet dancing for instance. Activities like these put added pressure on your big toe joint. And more pressure always increases the chance of bunions developing.

Arthritis of the big toe

Though I personally don't suffer from arthritis (damage to the joints – in this case the big toe joints), I want to mention it here as a possible cause of bunion development. Arthritis can be caused by an infection, but it can also be one of the consequences of aging. (By the way, it helps to ban wheat from your diet if you're suffering from arthritis.)

A weak or tired spleen

Finally, I discovered that my spleen may have something to do with bunions developing on my feet. You see, bunions are located at the end of the spleen meridian. This suggests a relation between bunions and the condition of your spleen. Please read my web page about acupuncture to find out more about this relation.