As the years go by, your big toe slowly pushes more and more inwards towards your other toes, while lower down, a bony lump sticks out in the other direction, painfully grazing against the inside of your shoe.
You have a bunion – or likely two of them, one on either foot.
It's what happens when bone tissue, tendons and muscles on a metatarsus bone in your foot gradually deform, leading to the head of the bone protruding on the inside of the foot.
With each footstep, the first metatarsal bone, or big toe, shifts outward, and the other toes and nerves can be deformed and damaged.
The bony lump of the bunion is especially painful when pressed against the wall of a shoe.
How do I avoid them?
Some people are just more vulnerable to bunions than others, but there are still ways to at least reduce their severity.
Even weak connective tissue, joint diseases or shortened tendons and muscles, can lead to bunions.
Some doctors recommend orthopaedic insoles to prevent the condition.
If you want to reduce your chances of getting bunions, then the first thing you can do is to avoid wearing high heels or shoes with pointy toes, as these are often responsible for this deformity.
Those who walk or run barefoot have a lower risk of getting bunions.
That's because barefoot walking strengthens the foot muscles and promotes the natural position of the foot and toes, treatment experts say.
Comfortable, flat shoes can also prevent bunions.
While some worry about the aesthetics of their feet, the pain they can cause while walking is incentive enough to take measures to avoid them.
Even a pronounced bunion does not necessarily hurt, however.
What if it's too late?
Depending on the symptoms, it can be treated with braces, appropriate shoes, physiotherapy or painkillers.
Unfortunately, one can only fully correct the issue through operation.
For anyone with bunions, fitted silicone toe spreaders can alleviate minor complaints by creating some distance between the big toe and other toes, thus relieving pressure and preventing sores from developing.
Special bandages also pull the big toe away from the other toes, and can thus correct its position to some extent.
If all shoes still seem too tight, diabetic shoes can be an alternative: they are padded and often have a particularly large toe box.
Small exercises to strengthen the arch of the foot can also help.
For example: put equal weight on the outside of the heel, the ball of the big toe and the ball of the little toe.
Do not clench the toes and push the heel and forefoot towards each other without moving the foot.
Then alternately tense and relax.
A sign that the deformity is already far advanced: The toenail of the big toe is no longer in line with the other toenails, but misaligned.
The alignment of the bones can then be corrected by surgery. – dpa