Different Ethnicities, Different Feet

Bunions and other foot disorders may be more common among African Americans than whites

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Foot disorders are not the problem of one race alone. However, some races may be more likely than others to develop certain foot disorders. Compared to whites, African Americans were more likely to have foot problems like flat feet or high arches.

Yvonne M. Golightly, PT, MS, PhD, of the University of North Carolina, and colleagues looked at rates of foot problems among older adults.

The study's results showed African Americans were three times more likely to have flat feet than whites. However, African Americans were almost five times less likely than whites to have Tailor's bunions.

"Wear proper footwear."

These researchers found:

  • 64 percent of study participants had bunions - a condition also known as hallux valgus in which the big toe points toward the second toe, causing a bump to form on the outer edge of the toe.

  • 35 percent had hammer toe - a deformity of the second, third or fourth toes in which the toe is bent at the middle joint

  • 34 percent had overlapping toes - a condition in which one toe lies on top of the toe next to it

  • 23 percent had flat fleet - a condition also known as pes planus

While each of these conditions is not necessarily painful, they can lead to pain and discomfort.

Tailor's bunion is a condition caused by inflammation of the long bone on the outside of the foot that attaches to the little toe. It is similar to a typical bunion except the bump forms on the outside of the foot.

When the researchers looked at non-obese patients, African Americans still had a higher risk of certain foot problems.

Compared to non-obese whites, non-obese African Americans were:

  • about two times more likely to have bunions
  • 2.64 times more likely to have hammer toes
  • 1.53 times more likely to have overlapping toes

The authors concluded that foot disorders are common among adults 50 years of age and older and these disorders differ by race.

More research is needed to study the cause of these foot problems - especially those problems with racial differences - in order to find ways to prevent them, the authors said.

The study included 1,691 participants. Of these, 68 percent were women and 31 percent were African American.

This research was supported by the Arthritis Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among others.

The study was published October 27 in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

Because one of the study's authors - Marian T. Hannan, DSc, MPH - is the editor of Arthritis Care & Research, the study was reviewed by the editor of Arthritis & Rheumatism to ensure an unbiased assessment of the research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 2, 2012
Last Updated:
February 16, 2015