(StatePoint) As the weather cools and women switch from open to closed shoe styles, the transition can be painful. Dr. Thanh Dinh, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon and president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) says two of the most common types of pain women feel in autumn come from bunions and hammertoes. She offers some helpful insights into treating these conditions and easing associated pain.

Understanding Bunions.
A common myth is that tight-fitting or narrow shoes cause bunions. However, bunions are actually genetic, and symptoms occur most often when wearing high heels or other styles that crowd the toes. “A bunion is a change in the bony framework of the front part of the foot most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot,” Dr. Dinh explains. “When the big toe leans towards the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead, it throws the bones out of alignment and produces the all-too-familiar, bunion bump.” Pain from bunions most often occurs along the side of the foot near the big toe. Women sometimes describe it as a throbbing that continues even after removing their shoes. The site of the bunion can also be inflamed or red, and can feel numb or have a burning sensation.

Demystifying Hammertoes.
“A hammertoe is a ‘bending’ or contracture deformity of one or both joints of a toe,” Dr. Dinh says. “The abnormal bending puts pressure on the toe when wearing shoes and causes problems to develop — which can start mildly and worsen over time.” Women with hammertoes can experience pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes. Corns and calluses (a buildup of skin) on the toe, between the toes or on the ball of the foot, can occur from constant friction against the shoes. Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation are also possible, and, in severe cases, open sores may form.

Next Steps.
Proper shoe selection and conservative treatments can go a long way in managing pain from bunions and hammertoes. Foot and ankle surgeons recommend avoiding high-heeled shoes and styles that crowd the toes together, as well as using padding and taking anti-inflammatory medication. While these techniques address pain, they don’t generally stop bunions or hammertoes from getting worse. Surgery is commonly performed by foot and ankle surgeons to correct the deformities and alleviate pain. Those who suffer from both ailments can have surgery to correct the foot deformities at the same time. “Recovery time varies, and is based on the procedures performed, the advancement of the deformities, the number of toes involved, age, and other factors, but success rates for the surgeries are encouraging,” says Dr. Dinh. “Plus, the advanced procedures foot and ankle surgeons perform today to fix bunion deformities reduce the likelihood of a recurrence,” she adds.

While everyone loves fall fashions, certain shoe styles can exacerbate painful foot conditions. Taking steps to manage these conditions can make for a pain-free autumn and beyond. Learn more and find an ACFAS physician at www.FootHealthFacts.org.