Corrective and Prescription Shoes

A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint). Bunions form when the toe moves out of place. The enlargement and its protuberance cause friction and pressure as they rub against footwear. Over time, the movement of the big toe angles in toward the other toes . The growing enlargement or protuberance then causes more irritation or inflammation. In some cases, the big toe moves toward the second toe and rotates or twists, which is known as Hallus Abducto Varus. Bunions can also lead to other toe deformities, such as hammertoe.

Many people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the enlargement against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in, the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult--all contributing to chronic pain.

Bunions have been with mankind since the beginning of time. Undoubtedly they have received more attention since shoes have become a vital part of our fashion. It is generally recognized that those who have a bunion deformity most probably inherited the tendency from an earlier generation. So often people are told "don't have anything done until you can't stand the pain"! This is a misconception! Our rule of thumb is that when it becomes obvious that you have a bunion, that is the time to correct it!

Treatment for Bunions

Certainly the goal in bunion treatment is to limit the deformity and to stop the progression if it has already begun. This can only be done in the very beginning stages. When it is seen that the deformity is beginning in children and young adults, often the use of a good custom orthotic will stop the progression of the deformity. Also wearing shoes that do not irritate the deformity is also wise.

Surgical Treatment

The greatest hurdle that people with bunion deformities have to overcome is history. In most instances, these people have had a relative with the same deformity who years ago had surgery and they remember the pain and the weeks and months in casts and on crutches. They also remember that after going through all of this pain and suffering, in many instances the bunion came back.

The good news is that in the past 10 years new techniques and better instrumentation have been developed. Bunion correction of today involves the use of micro instruments with precise cuts in the bone to correct the deformity, thus limiting the rate of re-occurrence. The old days of the doctor saying "I'm going to have to break the bone and reset" it are gone. If anyone says that to you, run as fast as you can! Gone are the days of casts and crutches and wheel chairs post-operatively. Only in the most severe cases must the patient be "non-weight bearing". In most cases, the patients at the Ford Center can resume a fairly normal lifestyle in days or weeks rather than months.

At the Ford Center for Foot Surgery, the procedures are done with I.V. sedation administered by one of our qualified anesthesiologists. We also use a regional anesthetic which is much safer than a general anesthetic. We can do this because we do not use tournequets when we do foot surgery. This minimizes post operative pain as well as the risk of blood clots. The net result of this is that the patient is awake and can walk within minutes following the surgery but their foot is numb for 18 - 20 hours.

The procedure itself is accomplished through an incision on the inside of the foot, thus there are no unsightly scars. The capsule of the joint is exposed and is opened revealing the "bump" on the side of the metatarsal bone. The over growth of bone is removed. Next a very precise "V" cut is made in the bone from one side to the other and the end or head of the bone is moved over. This narrows the foot back down to its normal width. To maintain this, a small screw is placed in the bone to secure the correction. The skin and soft tissues are then sutured and the foot bandaged. The foot is then placed in a post op shoe that will be worn for several weeks.

As a general rule, our patients return to comfortable shoes in 2 to 3 weeks.

Proper footwear is an important part of an overall treatment program for people with diabetes, even at the earliest stages of the disease. If there is any evidence of neuropathy, wearing the right footwear is crucial.

As a general rule, people with diabetes should choose shoes that:

  • Accommodate, stabilize, and support deformities, such as Charcot Foot, loss of fatty tissue, hammertoes, and amputations. Many deformities need to be stabilized to relieve pain and avoid further damage. In addition, some deformities may need to be controlled or supported to decrease further progression of the deformity.
  • Limit motion of joints. Limiting the motion of certain joints in the foot can decrease inflammation, relieve pain, and result in a more stable and functional foot.
  • Reduce shock and shear. A reduction in the overall amount of vertical pressure, or shock, on the bottom of the foot is desirable, as well as a reduction of horizontal movement of the foot within the shoe, or shear.
  • Relieve areas of excessive pressure. Any area where there is excessive pressure on the foot can lead to skin breakdown or ulcers. Footwear should help to relieve these high pressure areas, and therefore reduce the occurrence of related problems.

Prescription Footwear

Many diabetics need special prescription footwear. The various types include:

  • Custom-made shoes. When extremely severe deformities are present, a custom-made shoe can be constructed from a cast or model of the patient's foot. With extensive modifications of in-depth shoes, even the most severe deformities can usually be accommodated.
  • External shoe modifications. In these cases, the outside of the shoe is modified in some way, such as adjusting the shape of the sole or adding shock-absorbing or stabilizing materials.
  • Healing shoes. Immediately following surgery or ulcer treatment, special shoes may be necessary before a regular shoe can be worn. These include custom sandals (open toe), heat-moldable healing shoes (closed toe), and post-operative shoes.
  • In-depth shoes. An in-depth shoe is the basis for most footwear prescriptions. It is generally an oxford-type or athletic shoe with an additional 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of depth throughout the shoe. This extra volume accommodates inserts, or orthotics, as well as deformities commonly associated with a diabetic foot. In-depth shoes are usually designed to be light in weight, have shock-absorbing soles, and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to accommodate virtually any foot.
  • Orthoses or shoe inserts. Also known as orthotics, an orthosis is a removable insole which provides pressure relief and shock absorption. Both pre-made and custom-made orthotics or shoe inserts are commonly recommended for patients with diabetes, including a special total contact orthosis, which is made from a model of the patient's foot and offers a high level of comfort and pressure relief.