Runners and Bunions

A runner is no stranger to orthopedic ailments. Plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, and Achilles tendinitis are commonly experienced by runners. Runners typically know what these ailments entail and how to get them treated. But bunions are one of the least known running ailments, often chalked up to basic wear and tear on the feet.

These are formed on the joint at the base of the big toe, caused by the big toe pushing against the other toes in the opposite direction of your foot’s normal profile. Over time, the joint begins to enlarge. Swelling and redness can appear, as well as soreness and thickened skin at the base of the big toe. Corns and calluses may form between the first and second toes overlap. Eventually, this condition can lead to restricted movement of the big toe, making it painful to walk or run.

If this condition isn’t treated it can lead to the big toe pushing the other toes into abnormal positions and those toes can gradually become bent or claw-like, presenting a new condition known as hammertoe.

The biggest culprit of bunion formation is wearing shoes that are too tight. New runners are notorious for wearing improperly fitted shoes, often not realizing that they need to size up one half size in order to accommodate the toes as they splay during running. Overpronators are also victims of bunions because of the excessive stress placed on the big toe’s joint when they push off. Long distance runners put the most repetitive stress on their feet during their high-mileage weeks.

Surgical options are available if the less invasive management techniques aren’t successful. Surgery isn’t recommended unless walking or daily activity becomes severely painful or almost impossible.

Conservative treatment starts with getting properly fitting shoes regardless of athletic ability. Runners aren’t the only ones who need shoes that fit well! Your podiatrist can assist you in learning how to properly tape or pad your foot into a normal position before you go for a run, relieving stress on the bunion and lessening the pain on the toe. Non steroidal anti-inflammatories help control the pain and swelling of bunions while shoe inserts can distribute pressure evenly over the entire foot.

As Atlanta podiatry experts, American Foot and Leg Specialists recommend seeing one of our doctors as soon as you experience initial symptoms. Early intervention is key to stop permanent damage from occurring.