Are Bunions Hereditary?

If your mother has bunions….

You are probably wondering if bunions are hereditary if your mother kicks off her shoes whenever she gets the chance because of a painful bunion. No doubt you are worried that the same problem will afflict your own feet.

The relationship between bunions and heredity will really matter to you if your mother often complained about her bunions and the foot pain they caused. Maybe your grandmother or other relatives (male or female) suffered in the same way.

If so, it’s likely you were told that someday these unsightly bumps would develop on the sides of your own feet, and, because of genetics, there was nothing you could do about it.

However, my research indicates that this issue about bunions and genetics is not quite so clear-cut. What is more clear is that a particular type of structure of your foot that predisposes you to develop bunions is definitely hereditary.

Certain tendons and ligaments along with the supportive structures of the the first metatarsal bone are simply positioned differently in some people, and positioned in a way that leads to weakness in the foot. If your mother’s feet (or father’s) contain this kind of abnormal positioning, then it’s more likely that yours will, also.

In particular, flat feet or low arches are associated with an increased risk of this foot disorder. This is because over-pronation, a natural tendency of flat feet or feet with low arches, leads to the excessive stretching of the soft tissue supporting the joint and ligaments.

Without adequate support, the first metatarsal bone will begin to deviate or bend toward the center of the body. The first metatarsal bone is the  long bone in the foot that starts in the mid-foot and ends at the base of the big toe. When it doesn’t receive the support it needs and starts to deviate toward the center of the body, the big toe also begins to deviate in the opposite direction, toward the smaller toes. This causes a prominence or enlargement of bone on the at the first metatarsal joint, which usually, in turn, eventually causes the protuberance, or bump, that you see on the outside of your foot.

The medical term for this condition is called hallux valgus deformity. For further discussion, click here.

As stated, the faulty foot structure that allows these changes inside the foot to happen is often inherited.  A mother (or father…men can develop bunions, too, from their faulty foot structure) who has bunions would do well to keep an eye on their children’s feet.  Knowing whether or not a child has actually inherited this foot type can be of great benefit in subsequent years of the child’s growth into an adult. Early intervention if a bump is starting to form is an important factor in controlling the progression of this foot deformity.

To recap, the answer to the question are bunions hereditary is no; but the foot structure that predisposes a foot to bunion development is indeed hereditary. Anyone who has this kind of foot structure is more likely to develop bunions than is someone with more normal feet.

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