What Causes Bunions?
(hint: the answer isn’t genetics)


“My bunions are genetic, my Mom had them so I’m stuck with them.”

Sound familiar? It’s not entirely true!

While it may be true that you have a predisposition towards bunions, it isn’t true that if your Mom had them you’re doomed. If you avoid stressing the big toe your body won’t form a bunion!

In fact, most people have a bunion that’s far worse on one foot than the other. There must be other factors besides your DNA contributing to the issue.

Knowledge is power, and learning what causes a bunion (and how to avoid them) makes all the difference.

What are bunions?

Bunions are bony calluses that develop on the big toe joint as the body attempts to create more stability in the area .

Why would that happen?

Think of heel spurs, or even callouses on your hands…they work the same way. Your body changes in response to the stress we put on it and how it’s used.

Bunions are a resaction to extra strain put on the big toe joint, and the result is an unsightly, sore area of extra bone.

How could there be extra stress on your big toe? Lets go over the 3 main contributing factors:

Narrow Footwear

Are you wearing shoes that are narrower in the front than your foot would be if it spread out naturally?

This causes the big toe to bend, creating instability as it moves towards the baby toe.

Over time muscles shorten, ligaments change shape and your body then lays down extra bone to try to stabilize the area.


Your feet naturally pronate (roll inwards) with each step. However, many people suffer from “over-pronation”, meaning their arch flattens much more than it should with each step.

As the foot falls inward the big toe drifts out towards the pinky to compensate, leading to further issues like the one in the diagram above.

The pressure from rolling in combined with extra strain on the big toe sets up the area for further bunion formation. The superfeet we carry in the office or custom orthotics correct the issue and take the pressure of that big toe.

If you think you’re over-pronating chat with one of the doctors when you’re in the office about which orthotics or superfeet may be right for you. Fair warning…orthotics and superfeet are so comfortable they’re addictive!

Poor Standing and Walking Posture

Everyone is hunched forward these days…and it’s affecting the way we stand and walk. Many people aren’t engaging their lower back, pelvis and hips correctly.

Because the body works together as one unit this can create issues in many areas…including your feet and toes.

Here’s a simple exercise to try:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and notice where your weight lands on your feet. If you’re like most people it’s in the front of your foot.
  • Now walk across the room normally and notice how much of your weight falls in the front of your foot.
  • Try it again but this time clasp your hands behind your head. Notice how much more balanced your weight rolls through your entire foot?

The front of our foot is meant to help us “roll through and toe off” when we take a step but so many of us use it to catch our weight as we land with each step.

This causes the big toe to have far more stress on it than it is designed to. Once again, your body will now need to compensate for this by laying down extra bone on the main part of the front foot, your big toe.

How can you correct this? Please make an appointment with one of our chiropractors to see if you need an adjustment. You may be locked in forward posture and require specific adjustments to correct it.

Simple posture exercises and low back strengthening exercises can also go a long way in correcting this posture and rebalancing the weight on your feet.

Try some of the exercises below to begin:

If  you’re wondering how to fix your posture, think you may need orthotics, wonder what footwear is right for you or have sore  feet give us a call...and let’s keep your feet looking and feeling their best.

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman is the co-founder of Pure-Health Wellness, a practicing chiropractor, and the Director of Shulman Weight Loss London. With a belief that wellness is the foundation of a fulfilling life, she empowers her patients with simple strategies to regain and maintain their health.