A bunion is also known as Hallux Valgus. It has become more popular among athletes in recent times.
Aside from soccer players, players of other sports involving sporadic sprints like hockey, basketball, and American football have recently started complaining of bunion complications.
In the past, bunions were generally linked with older white ladies but recent findings have proven that it can affect both men and women of different activity levels and age groups regardless of their country of origin.
Soccer players with less ideal footwear choices are more prone to the wear and tear usually caused by rigorous athletic activities which can sprawl into bunions.
This foot defect is very common among soccer players, especially pro soccer players who engage in more activities than amateur players.
Bunions might look painless but they can often be very painful and pose a major threat to soccer players. They can limit players’ mobility, cause swelling, prevent soccer cleats from fitting properly, and also affect players’ overall composure and confidence.
Bunions are not permanently destructive to your foot, they can be managed and treated effectively. Keep reading if you want to understand more about bunions, how it affects soccer players, and how they can be prevented or effectively managed.
- Can soccer cause bunions?
- What are the signs and symptoms of bunions?
- How to treat or manage bunions?
Can soccer cause bunions?
From our research, we found out that playing soccer can cause bunion since it involves a lot of running. However, wearing the right soccer cleats can help prevent it to an extent.
When there is a gradual change in the structure of the foot’s biggest toe which causes it to deform over its side, it is what is referred to as a bunion. Your foot’s shape and the pressure put on your feet by the way you walk can escalate your chances of getting a bunion.
The most visible sign of a bunion is a painful protruding bony lump by the side of the big toe. Standing on one spot for a long period and wearing narrow shoes can worsen bunion pains.
Bunion doesn’t just appear on the foot overnight, it is a deformity that involves many years of pressure on the big toe joint (the metatarsophalangeal) to materialize. These years of pressure on the foot cause the toe joint to shift out of alignment thereby forming a bony bump.
Although bunion is more common in older adults, statistics show that as much as one in every three random Americans suffers from this foot defect. They can affect one foot or both feet depending on certain factors and circumstances.
Playing soccer with an active bunion can cause calluses and corns when the deformed big toe rubs continuously against the wall of the soccer boot. This can be detrimental to soccer players since it can adversely affect their overall performance during matches.
Common causes of bunions
No particular factor is responsible for the appearance of a bunion on the foot but a combination of certain factors can be held responsible for this deformity. We shall be looking at some of the common factors below.
Jobs which require people to do more standing, walking, and running than sitting like teaching, soccer, factory work, etc. are more likely to escalate the chances of getting bunions.
Soccer players and ballet dancers usually place enormous stress on their foot joints and toes which drastically increases their chances of getting bunions. Runners and other sports involving a lot of running and short sprints usually facilitate it as well.
It is not the job you do that is directly responsible for your bunions but it hastens its formative phase by serving as a catalyst. Wearing comfortable shoes even while engaging in these jobs can help insulate and protect your feet against bunions.
Having joint disorders like psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid, and osteoarthritis while playing soccer can increase your chances of developing a bunion. Sometimes, bunions get misdiagnosed as arthritis because they share similar symptoms like toe pain, swelling, and deformation.
It is very important to properly diagnose if toe pain and deformity are caused by arthritis or bunions before administering treatment to avoid further complications from arising.
It has not been scientifically proven yet that wearing poorly fitting shoes can exclusively cause a bunion. However, we are aware that poor shoe choices can escalate an already existing bunion thereby hastening its formation and making it more painful and visible.
Bad shoe choices like high heels, narrow shoes, heavy cleats, and shoes with very narrow toe spaces which increase the pressure on the big toe joint can all actively contribute to causing bunions.
Being a soccer player, you must try by all possible means to avoid wearing high-heeled shoes, boots with tight and narrow toe areas, and undersized soccer boots even when they are given to you for free.
Even when your bunion was acquired genetically with little external interference, wearing shoes that cause pain and mount pressure on the foot must be avoided for the health of your feet and your comfort.
Abnormal walking posture
You are more susceptible to developing a bunion when you are fond of rolling your foot while running or walking while playing soccer. Also, having “flat feet” or low arches can increase your chances of getting bunions.
Players with “normal” arches or players who keep their foot level when running or walking are less prone to suffering bunions.
Many products like special footwear and other accessories can be adopted in correcting or preventing this defect from occurring. High arched players also suffer from bunions but theirs happens less often than low arched players.
If your family has a history with bunions, you must be very careful about your walking mechanics and always get your gait and feet analyzed.
While some soccer players get bunions through some of the conditions mentioned above, others are genetically inclined to develop it. On some occasions, bunions run in the genes of family members.
It is often noticed that people whose family members are inclined with having bunions stand higher chances of getting it as well. There was even a recent study that discovered that people of European descent have higher chances of having bunions than other races.
Meanwhile, hereditary conditions such as Down syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and Marfan syndrome increase the risk of bunion formation. These conditions are known to increase slackness in the foot’s supportive soft tissues which aid faster deformation of joints.
It is obvious that bunion isn’t gender-sensitive. However, based on our findings, the condition seems to be more rampant in women than in men.
If you are one of those female soccer players currently suffering from this embarrassing deformity, you can be assured that it is a global problem.
What are the signs and symptoms of bunions?
At the formative stage of bunions, they usually resemble a turnip—often looking red and swollen. Some sources say that the word ‘bunion’ was derived from the Greek word for turnip.
The common symptoms of bunions are listed below.
- Numbness in the toe region
- Painful and tight toe ligaments and joints also called ‘hammertoes’
- Thickened skin also called calluses or corns
- Difficulties in wearing your regular soccer boots
- Pains and difficulty in bending the big toe
- Difficulty in walking or running
- Redness or inflammation in the toe joints
- Recurrent migraines
When you have bunions, it may increase your risk of also having osteoarthritis, bursitis (fluid-filled sacs around joints), and bone spurs.
How to treat or manage bunions?
Bunions don’t heal by themself without proper care and treatment. Treatments are often administered to relieve pain and prevent further complications. Below is a list of how bunions can be properly managed.
Surgery can be said to be the final resort when medications and care fail to yield desired results. Sometimes, non-surgical treatments seem to be futile while the condition deteriorates into more severe situations, this is when surgeries are most suitable.
The surgical procedure done to correct a bunion disorder is known as bunionectomy. During this procedure, a surgeon works on the bunion by realigning bones on the foot to properly accommodate the big toe.
Injecting steroids on the bunion may reduce swelling and pain but can also be dangerous when used frequently or injected mistakenly into the joint. This option is what people usually fall back to when they don’t want surgery.
Ultrasound therapy, physical therapy, and massage are also effective when trying to break up soft-tissue adhesion to lessen inflammation and pain. You can also engage in certain exercises designed to improve toe muscle strength and alignment like toe point and curls, ball roll, towel grip, figure-eight rotation, etc.
Orthotic devices can either be custom-made or purchased over-the-counter. They are shoe inserts that can help in controlling alignment issues like pronation which is common among soccer players.
To also control alignment issues that can aggravate bunions, you can skillfully place a spacer between the second digit of your foot and the big toe. Some people also wear splints at night to straighten the big toe while they sleep.
It is advisable to wear soccer cleats with deep toe boxes and slightly elastic uppers to reduce the amount of pressure on your toes. Stretching devices can be used in widening soccer shoes when they are likely to influence the formation of bunions.
Using tapes and bunion pads
Medical tapes and over-the-counter bunion pads can be effective in keeping the foot properly aligned.
Pads and tapes can also cushion the toe area and reduce pain usually caused by blisters. You can read our previous article to learn more about how to prevent blisters when playing soccer.
Soccer players like most athletes fall among the vulnerable demographic or group of people who are most likely to be affected by bunions. Some players often seek to wear tight shoes even when it causes them pain simply because they feel like it gives them better control of the ball.
Wearing tight shoes can cause a lot of problems especially when your feet haven’t stopped growing. The risk of putting undue pressure on the big toe and the foot’s joints is heightened when you wear very tight soccer shoes.
When faced with a bunion, don’t try hiding it from your teammates or try managing it by yourself. Visit your healthcare provider to offer you viable solutions or treatment options.
Recommended treatments for bunion can include medications, orthotics, physical therapy, and shoe gear modifications.
Treatment might help in reducing the pain and eventually stop the bunion from further developing. However, if the treatment isn’t as effective as expected, surgery can be done to realign the big toe and properly fix your toe.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!