Why women’s feet hurt more during the fall

For many women, autumn represents a time to start anew for many things, including a switch to enclosed-toe shoes. But, for women with bunions, the introduction of colder-weather shoes may mean increased foot pain.

While shoes do not cause bunions, they may cause bunion pain, especially in the transitional season months. Many women spend their summer months donning foot-exposing shoes that cause minimal, if any, friction to their bunions. Switching to shoes with narrow foot boxes during the cooler months may cause rubbing against a bunion, in which case may become inflamed.

To help combat the added foot pain, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons outlines common reasons why women experience bunion woes and when to seek treatment.

To ward off what many describe as intense pain, foot and ankle surgeons recommend shoe modifications to new patients. Avoiding high-heeled shoes and styles that crowd the toes together can help. Proper shoe selection and adjustment can go a long way, advises Dr.  Karl Collins, podiatrist and ACFAS Fellow Member who practices out of St. Louis.

“If a patient has a shoe that fits well everywhere else, but there’s just a little bit of irritation at just that one spot, we may recommend that they have the shoe modified (by a shoe repair shop),” Collins said.

Dr. Michelle Butterworth, South Carolina foot and ankle surgeon and ACFAS Fellow member, treats a lot of teachers in the fall who have back-to-school bunion pain.

Butterworth said many women don’t understand what doctors mean about shoe width: It’s the front of the shoe that needs to be wide.
“Anything that’s real pointy is going to put more pressure on that (bunion) bump,” she said.

In addition to recommending shoe changes, foot and ankle surgeons also may prescribe foam- or gel-filled padding, orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and injections for bursitis, nerve irritation and joint irritation. While these techniques address pain, they do not stop the bunion from getting worse. Only surgery can correct the deformity.

Bunion surgery boasts a high success rate but, surgeons agree that patients need to understand what their procedure and recovery will involve.
“Probably the biggest thing is, they think surgery’s not going to work and the bunion will come back,” Butterworth said. “It’s probably the biggest myth I dispel.”

“If wearing four-inch heels and working on your feet all day wasn’t good for you before the surgery, it’s certainly not going to be good for you after the surgery,” said Dr. Michael Loshigian, foot and ankle surgeon and ACFAS Fellow member who practices out of New York.

Because bunions are a progressive disorder, they do not go away and may become worse over time. ACFAS recommends patients see a foot and ankle surgeon as early as possible for an exam and diagnosis.

To fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the progression of the bunion.

For more on bunion symptoms and surgery or to find a local foot and ankle surgeon, go to ACFAS’s patient education website, www.foothealthfacts.org.


The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is a professional society of more than 7,400 foot and ankle surgeons. Founded in 1942, the college’s mission is to promote research and provide continuing education for the foot and ankle surgical specialty, and to educate the general public on foot health and conditions of the foot and ankle through its consumer website, www.foothealthfacts.org.