A Tale of Two Bunions - Jeffrie C. Leibovitz, DPM

A Tale of Two Bunions

When Charles Dickens started A Tale of Two Cities with the classic line “[i]t was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he wasn’t talking about life with and without bunions—but he very well could have been.

After all, a bunion-free life can put you closer towards that “best” end of the spectrum, whereas a bunion-filled life definitely ventures more towards the “worst” end. But that isn’t the whole story!

Fortunately, this is a tale that won’t take nearly as long to read as Dickens’ 135,000+ word masterpiece.

Act One: Meet Becky and Stacy

Once upon a time, two girls—Becky and Stacy—were born on the same day in a small town where everyone knew everyone else and the weather was pleasant all year long, even during polar vortexes.

After a couple of days in the hospital, the parents brought their infants home and the girls started to go through the normal stages of child development, without any serious health issues.

Now, in small towns like theirs, neighbors often know things about each other. One of the less scandalous bits of local gossip running around town was the fact that both Becky and Stacy’s parents had bunions.

Of course, even if neighbors didn’t occasionally talk about that, it would have been hard to miss the characteristic bumps and wayward big toes when the parents wore sandals, open-toed shoes, and walked barefoot on the local beach.

And if you know anything about bunions, you’ll understand that it’s no major plot twist to reveal that the girls were both starting to show early signs of the condition—the big toe angles inward (towards the other toes), a bump starts to develop at the great toe joint —as they entered the preteen years.

The reason Becky and Stacy started to develop bunions is because this condition is strongly linked to genetics.

In fact, this problem’s genetic component is so great that your friendly neighborhood go-to foot doc almost feels like a psychic sometimes. When younger patients are accompanied by parents—or, even better, grandparents—a quick look at the more senior family member’s feet is often a glimpse into the future for the child.

If you or your husband have a bunion, the odds are high that your child will as well—and those odds are even higher if any of your respective parents have a bunion!


Act Two: Divergent Paths for Our Protagonists

Going back to our tale, eventually both of Stacy’s parents had their bunions corrected. They happened to learn about the genetic nature of this condition after they had their own bunions treated. They were surprised to find out that the bunion deformity was not what was really passed down to their daughter but it was the way the foot works (the mechanics) that was their hereditary gift.

Stacy’s parents had flat feet their entire life and now realized that this was the problem that creates the bunion later in life.

Since her parents knew Stacy had increased odds of having bunion trouble, they checked out her feet and observed the early stages of flat feet. When they watched Stacy walk away from them they saw that the Achilles tendon was bowed to the outside and when she walked toward them her arch esrolled in too much.

As responsible parents, they called and made an appointment for their daughter to see the nearby charming and handsome podiatrist, Dr. Leibovitz.

Upon walking through the front door, Stacy’s mom and dad were greeted with a big smile from the town’s favorite go-to foot doc.

“It’s really smart that you brought Stacy in at such an early age,” Dr. Leibovitz said. “There are things we can do to slow down the progression or even prevent this from becoming a serious problem later in your daughter’s life. In fact, this would eventually reach a point wherein it would cause tremendous pain and keep Stacy from participating in her favorite activities.”

The wise podiatrist continued to explain that bunions are progressive in nature—left unaddressed they continue to worsen over time. After enough time has lapsed, the only course of action is to use surgery to restore the wayward toe back to its proper position.

Fortunately, though, Stacy’s parents didn’t wait until it became a major problem. Instead, they acted soon enough and Dr. Leibovitz had options beyond surgical correction.

“When someone has an issue like this, we generally have two options for addressing the problem,” said the dashing podiatrist. “We can control the way the foot works with internal or external treatments.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Stacy’s dad.

“Basically, we can correct flat foot and bunion internally, which is through surgery—like we did for yours,” said Dr. Leibovitz. In a child’s foot, the bones are growing and we can use this to our advantage. If the foot is held in a corrected position with an orthotic long enough, the bones can change and develop to a better position, but there’s a catch.”

“A catch?” asked Stacy’s mom.

“Well, the rolling in of the foot and bunion have to be caught at an early stage. Obviously, this wasn’t the case for you and your husband, but the good news is that it’s absolutely the case for Stacy. As such, I recommend starting her with orthotic therapy as part of her treatment plan.”

“Okay, what’s orthotic therapy?” asked Stacy’s mom.

“These are a low profile customized brace—not the over the counter kind you’d get at the Not Good Foot Store—that work with your daughter’s unique foot structure and gait pattern. This is where the problem starts. 

Stacy’s parents thought this sounded like a great idea, and agreed to go with Dr. Leibovitz’s treatment plan.

On the other side of town, Becky’s parents didn’t reach out and request an appointment for their daughter—which is something that’s super easy to do! Sending a carrier pigeon or taking just a moment to fill out an online form is all it takes.

(Fine, they didn’t have online contact back in Dickens’ day. But we do have them now and they are seriously convenient for you. There are no forms to fill out because we will call for your information.)

buinon on 2 feet

Act Three: The Plot Thickens

As they’re prone to do, seasons came and seasons went. Several years passed and Stacy and Becky were now juniors in high school. Both of the girls desperately hoped to catch the eye of the school’s heartthrob, Adam, by trying out for the soccer team.

When Stacy slipped on her new soccer cleats, they were a little snug with her orthotics but comfortable.

Sadly, Becky didn’t have quite the same experience. With her untreated bunion jutting out along the inner edge of her right foot—something that happened in response to unstable mechanics and years of overpronation—the right shoe was rather uncomfortable to wear.

Becky managed to make it through the week of tryouts and was elated to find her name just under Stacy’s on the list of the girls who made the varsity team.

Despite the pain, Becky was resolved to win over Adam’s affections with outstanding skills and speed on the soccer field. The reality of the matter was that it hurt every time she passed or chipped the ball. This made running drills difficult and other teams were quick to pick up on the fact she had a weak side and rarely passed to teammates on her left.

Conversely, was a play maker was the leader in assists and goals. She was better able to focus on refining her skills and becoming a versatile, contributing member to the team.

As the soccer season progressed, Becky received less and less playing time. Whereas she thought this was ruining her chances to win Adam’s heart, it was also rather defeating because she loved to play soccer—and this a reason it’s important for anyone to get treatment for foot problems that can keep them from favorite activities!

The girls’ soccer team was the underdog going into the district tourney. They ended their season with a huge win against their heated rivals.

After the game, Adam was quick to run up to Stacy and congratulate her on two goals and 2 assists she had that allowed the team to win.

From across the field, Becky saw the two talking, put her head down, and walked to the locker room by herself, all the while cursing her bunion pain, soccer, shoes, and her parents for “ruining her life.” (Who says teenagers are overdramatic?)

Act Four: The Fallout

Twenty-some years lapsed and the two girls had grown into women in their early 40’s. Both had become professionals, with Becky working as a high-powered lawyer and Stacy being an account manager at a leading marketing agency.

Due to her need to make an impression in court, Becky often wore stylish pumps and stilettos throughout the workday.

Given the laidback, creative nature of the marketing agency, Stacy was able to opt for comfy shoes that were more “function” than “fashion.”

Now, we’ve seen that these ladies already had bunion issues since youth. Clearly, their footwear choices did not cause the condition to develop.

Even with that being the case, there’s a difference between causing a problem and contributing to one.

Stacy carefully adhered to Dr. Leibovitz’s advice to choose shoes that featured lower heel (less than 3 inches) and a stable heel counter, instead of high-heeled models that jammed the toes together and placed excessive pressure on the front of the feet.

Becky had a professional image to maintain and didn’t feel as though she had the luxury of being able to choose more sensible models despite her pain. In turn, this caused her bunion condition to become more and more severe making her other toes bend and cross over, to the point where she refused to wear sandals and open-toed shoes and no longer enjoyed spending time at the beach—where feet are exposed for the world to see.

Act Five: A Happy Ending

The respective family trees for Becky and Stacy branched out over the ensuing years. In time, both women had grandchildren of their own.

Stacy saw firsthand how early intervention could make a profound impact in allowing her to have opportunities along the way to participate in favorite activities and avoid a world of pain. Because of her experiences, Stacy brought her children (and their children) to see the podiatrist at early ages. In doing so, she spared them from a story that Becky’s family know all too well. 

Becky had a similar revelation, but from a different perspective. She didn’t want her children and grandchildren to miss out on opportunities and suffer from bunion pain like she had. Further, Becky wanted her family to decrease the need for corrective surgery later in life.

So Becky also made sure her family members received early treatment and intervention. In doing so, her children and grandchildren were able have fun and participate in favorite activities.

The Moral of the Story

Early treatment and intervention is always a smart idea—and especially when it comes to biomechanics and bunions. This is a condition that will not get better on its own. Instead, it will continue to worsen unless it is addressed with professional treatment.

And professional treatment for bunions is one of the many services we provide here in our Indianapolis practice. If you have any questions or want to request an appointment, simply give us a call at (317) 545-0505 or take advantage of our online contact form to connect with us today!