On their website, the Mayo Clinic says, “A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out.” The Mayo Clinic lists the causes of bunions as genetics, foot injury, deformity at birth, rheumatoid arthritis. And right about there is where the Mayo Clinic and I quit seeing eye to eye on bunions.
In my opinion, bunions are a painful, but frequent part of our everyday life because the toe boxes in our shoes are too narrow, forcing muscular tightening and joint changes in our feet. This is my opinion because cultures that do not wear shoes, or wear shoes less often, have a far fewer instances of bunions. Runners Connect wrote a great article asking, “Do Tight Shoes Increase Your Risk of Developing Bunions?” You should check this out if you want more information about the potential impact of your shoe choices on your feet.
In our culture, it’s a given that we must wear shoes. In fact, the only places we are barefoot are in our homes, in our friends homes, and in some houses of worship. Therefore, we spend most of our day in shoes. I mention this because, even though we will be addressing what to do to correct a bunion, it is important to fully realize that we will need to be doing enough action to counter hours and hours worth of counter action. This means that the work you do on your feet after you have removed your shoes will need to be substantial. You should do each exercise until you feel the muscles in your foot start to relax. I suggest to my clients that they make it a habit of playing with their feet while they watch TV.
Here are some exercises that I suggest to help fix your bunion:
- Roll your feet on a tennis ball. Place a tennis ball on the ground and roll it back and forth with the sole of your foot. This will help loosen any tight muscles on the bottom of your foot. You can be seated or standing. (Standing will help you to apply more pressure.) When addressing muscular issues, it’s important to understand that everything is connected. So when you’re working on a problem, don’t just look at the specific area, look at the surrounding area, too.
- Use your fingers and thumb to separate your big toe from your second toe. Place your opposite hand’s thumb on the joint under the big toe and wrap some fingers around the big toe. Push your thumb in as your fingers pull out. It is important to make sure that the toes are all in the same plane here. I’ve found that the more pronounced your bunion, the more likely the second toe is to hop over the big toe, and sometimes vice versa. When you separate your big toe from your second toe, hold that stretch for a little bit and then release. Take a moment and notice how when you create that stretch, the joint beneath your big toe decreases. Well, how about that! We’re getting rid of the bunion, and encouraging good muscular habits in our feet.
- Get your big toe into a corrected alignment and do small circles both directions. Use the hand placement described in #2 and draw little circles with your big toe. Make sure the movement comes from the joint at the base of the toe, and make sure to go both directions.
- Place your foot flat on the ground, manually spread your toes apart, and try to keep the stretch. If you already have healthy feet, the goal is not to have monkey toes. We want the bones on the outsides of the feet to be guides for correct big and pinkie toe placement.
Now that you are working on fixing your bunion yourself, there are some other things to think about:
- Are your shoes too tight?
- Is the toebox of your shoe narrow?
- Are you wearing high heels?
Let’s also consider that shoes are decomposing as we wear them. The supportive properties that may have been an incentive for you to purchase the shoe in the first place will break down over time and be replaced with an impression of our disfunctional foot. Each time we wear that shoe, our foot will be drawn back into our bad habits. Take a moment to digest that!
Go through your shoes and throw out any shoes that have a deep impression from your foot. And when you go shoe shopping, make sure that you’re making good choices.
But for now, let’s all cut “Footloose!” (Much thanks to YouTube and Vevo for the Kenny Loggins music video.)
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What are some other ways that you can think of that we can better care for our feet? Please comment below.
Here’s the link to the Mayo Clinic’s information on bunions.
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