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Can Arch Support Treat Bunions?

Janik Sundstrom
By Janik Sundstrom
Siphokazi Mdidimba
Reviewed by Siphokazi Mdidimba

Published July 1, 2022.

Feet placed together touching one another

Bunions are a common condition that affects many people across the globe. This condition has a marked bony bump on the inner side of the foot, at the joint of the big toe. Having flat feet (Pes planus) means that the weight of the body is placed on the inner side of the forefoot, which eventually leads to deformity. Pain and tenderness can occur, coupled with a progressive inward bend of the big toe towards the smaller ones as the condition slowly progresses.

This condition is commonly seen in an older population, causing a decrease in standing balance and an increased chance of falling. Wearing shoes with a narrow toe box may increase the risk of developing this condition significantly. Wearing high heels is also a risk factor for developing this condition. Bunions can progress to a stage where they may limit one's ability to walk or stand comfortably and live pain-free. Bunions can also occur in the small toe of the foot, otherwise known as bunionettes. Many people find improvement in the overall comfort and general experience of wearing arch supports.

Symptoms of Bunions

  • A bony bump is seen at the base of the big toe.
  • Outward bending of the big toe towards the smaller toes.
  • Redness and swelling around the area of the bony bump.
  • Corns or calluses around the base of the big toe.
  • Stiffness in the toe.
  • A decreased mobility of the foot.

For more information on how you can further treat bunions, take a look at our post on What to Know About Exercising to Treat Tailor’s Bunions.

Relationship Between Bunions and Arch Supports

There is a strong link between strong effective arches and a slower rate of development of bunions. The role of the arch is to maintain the shape of the foot under weight-bearing, which in turn maintains the alignment of the ankle joint. Bunions develop as a result of altered foot mechanics and an increase in pressure placed onto the inner side of the forefoot. The constant pressure placed on the forefoot causes the big toe to gradually shift towards the other toes. 

When the arches have fallen or they are underdeveloped from childhood, you may be at an increased risk of developing arch pain and bunions in the future. There are conservative management strategies out there to give support to the arch in the form of orthotics, in an attempt to redistribute the weight throughout the foot. Custom orthotics can be molded to the shape of your feet to maximize comfort when worn daily, by preventing pressure on the base of the first metatarsal. Orthotics can benefit you greatly in preventing bunion formation in your feet at all ages.

How Does Arch Support Help With Bunions?

Bunions are predominately caused by altered weight translation over the forefoot during continual activities. Having flat feet increases your risk of developing bunions. Arch support from orthotics can prevent the arches from collapsing under the weight, thus preventing the ankle from roll rolling inward.

Orthotics provide increased cushioning to the underside of the foot, which is especially helpful during the foot strike phase of running. This aids the inflamed area of the bunion in reducing immediate shock to the joint, thus reducing the rate of development of the bunion and pain in the area.

Types of Arch Support to Treat Bunions

Metatarsal arch supports are specifically for the metatarsal joint and are a good option for preventing aggravation of the joint and will improve overall condition. These orthotics aid in alignment to restore normal flexion in the big toe through a maintained foot arch. Plantar or foot arch supports work to support and redistribute the weight through the entirety of the foot. Orthotics can prevent areas of increased pressure, by restoring normal foot biomechanics needed for walking or running. This can in turn slow down the progression of bunion formation and its associated symptoms, as well as prevent pain elsewhere in the body.

Take a look at our post on how you can use conservative methods to fix bunions without surgery.

Can Arch Supports Cure Bunions?

Bunions cannot be completely cured by arch supports. However, using arch support insoles can provide a great deal of relief from symptoms that arise from the progression of bunion formation. Once this condition has developed it usually does not go away. These orthotics are specifically designed to help prevent bunions from worsening and managing the symptoms. Orthotics for bunions work to prevent the continual misalignment of the big toe towards the smaller toes, as well as limiting the amount of friction between the bony bump of your foot and your shoe. 

It is often reported that many people find relief only when wearing the orthotics and may not provide the same relief when the orthotics are removed. It may take some time to adjust to wearing the new orthotics in your shoes daily.

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