Bunions and Heredity
Does a painful bunion cause your mother to kick off her shoes whenever she gets the chance? Are you destined for the same fate?
The relationship between bunions and heredity is one that will concern you if your mother or grandmother has this foot problem and you have always heard complaints about their bunion pain.
It’s likely that female relatives have warned you that bunions on your own feet were an inevitable fact of life that someday you would have to face. So, “are bunions hereditary” is a question that seems to already have an answer. You are afraid that your dread of a bunion on your big toe or on your pinky toe would not have any effect on stopping their very unwelcome and unattractive appearance.
However, my research indicates that this issue about bunions and heredity 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.