How to Treat Bunions [Part 1] - Ariana Rabinovitch Yoga and Movement Education Google+

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How to Treat Bunions [Part 1]

My last post was about plantar fasciitis and it seemed only natural to write about bunions next – even though bunions are not natural for our feet. This post has 2 parts. Part 1 covers what bunions are, why we get them and the simplest things we can do to avoid them. Part 2 offers a more in-depth step-by-step guide on how to treat them.

What Are Bunions?

Bunions form at the base of the big toe (at the metatarsal phalangeal – MTP joint). The clinical term is Hallux Abducto Valgus which means that the big toe moves to the side (toward the pinky toe) instead of tracking straight forward. In addition, the first metatarsal (long bone below the big toe joint) tracks toward the other foot (away from the pinky). There is also often a malformation or enlargement at the base of the big toe joint which is an irritated bursa (fluid-filled sac designed to mitigate friction in the joints).

bunion illustration

Here is my anatomically incorrect illustration of the bone structure of a bunion.

 

Bunions form when we use the joint the wrong way – either in how we walk or because our shoes restrict proper motion of the feet and toes. Whatever the cause, bunions are extremely painful and I have many friends who have had corrective surgery to have them removed – all women. No surprise there since women get them more than men do.

Too Many Women Get Bunions

55% of American women have bunions

This is according to a study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society

According to a study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, 88 percent of American women wear shoes that are too small, and 55 percent of them have bunions. I read a government statistic which claimed 4.4 million Americans report having bunions per year. I had no luck finding out how much Americans spend on bunion treatment per year. But I did read that bunion surgery can cost 3-15K per foot.

Are High Heels the Cigarettes of the Future?

I just finished reading Katy Bowman’s new book “Alignment Matters” (review coming soon) which is an edited collection of her blog posts from the last five years. Katy talks a lot about feet throughout her 445-page book. I was very happy about that because I believe that foot health can lead to total body health. In the chapter “Are High Heels the Cigarettes of the Future?” she asks this compelling question:

Would a woman still choose to wear a shoe if she knew that it was causing:

1. Compression and Disk Degeneration in her spine

2. Weakening of the Pelvic Floor

3. Decrease in Bone Density

4. Severe Damage to the Nerves, Muscles and Bones in the Feet?

So bunions are one of many maladies that can result from wearing high heels. Here’s the thing. I live in New York City. I have asked many friends, colleagues and students this very question. The answer is an overwhelming NO, they would still not give up high heels if they knew this information.

I see bunions or bunions in the making all the time. New York ladies love their shoes. Myself included so I am not about to get on my high horse (or off my high heels). I too own shoes that are bunion makers, but I don’t wear them very often.

I am fascinated by the cultural statement that this choice makes and I am curious about the psychology behind it. That women are willing to sacrifice their well-being in order to be fashionable and that fashion in turn perpetuates foot pain and poor health in women. Even more so I see it as a statement about our culture – that we deal with repercussions when they arise (with drugs or surgery). Preventative care is not our strength – we are very much in a reactive health-care paradigm in which we react to extreme situations when they occur rather than taking steps to prevent them in the first place.

How to Treat Bunions

Get rid of your bunion makers and invest in bunion breakers! (tweetable?)

It is possible to reverse the formation of bunions with time, dedication and patience. However, depending on how severe they are, you may not be able to get rid of them completely. It also depends on whether or not you are willing to give up the habits that created them to begin with.

3 Things You Can Do to Treat Bunions:

1. Stop wearing high heels and/or shoes with narrow toe boxes completely and invest in zero heel shoes with wide toe boxes.

2. I knew you were going to say that, so how about this – wear those bunion makers less, wear  bunion breakers more (such as Correct Toes or My-Happy Feet Alignment Socks – images below)

3. Walk with your toes pointing forward. Push off with the big toe and allow the toes to extend when you walk (part of the natural gait cycle). You can do this barefoot in your home.

These are bunion breakers not makers.

Those are my feet wearing Correct Toes. These are bunion breakers.

 

These are my-happy feet socks aka the original foot alignment socks

These are my-happy feet socks aka the original foot alignment socks. Also bunion breakers.

So let me ask you – given what you know now – would you still choose to wear high heels? Or have you already given them up? I would love to hear what you have to say!

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8 Responses to How to Treat Bunions [Part 1]

  1. Aunt Susie November 15, 2013 at 11:12 PM #

    Hi Ari, excellent review. Your Grandpa Sam would be proud of your work:)

    When I was growing up, Daddy would always have me in sensible shoes. I rarely wore heels or sneakers. And to this day, I don’t wear heels. I have found happy feet in a shoe brand called, “Alegria”. They are not cheap, but they are amazing. They provide foot support. Help my back and hip!
    Your Aunt Susie

    • admin November 16, 2013 at 12:30 AM #

      Thanks Susie!! I have not heard of Alegria. I will check them out.

      • Barbra September 11, 2015 at 9:34 PM #

        Hi Aunt Susie!
        I’m researching about bunions coz I developed it right in Winter of 2015 after wearing stiff Timberland shoes. What type of Alegria shoes can you recommend?

        Barbra

        • admin September 12, 2015 at 5:56 PM #

          Hi Barbra, thanks for chiming in here. I’m not familiar with Alegria shoes. From a quick look at their line – I think the shape of the toe box is good (doesn’t squeeze the toes together) but the soles look rigid and there’s a toe spring in many of them (the toes are curled up). So I would be careful of those. The best thing to do is try them on and see how they feel when you walk. Do they allow your toes to spread and do they allow toe extension at toe-off?

  2. Tammy November 16, 2013 at 12:13 PM #

    I have never worn high heels, always wear flat, wide shoes and still have bunions. I am a normal weight, have great bone density and wear good sneakers to exercise and walk in. Sometimes it is just genetic. Would love to try the bunion breakers!

    Tammy

    • admin November 16, 2013 at 2:54 PM #

      You might have inherited a foot structure that is prone to bunions but bunions themselves are not genetic. They can also develop just from how the foot is used in the gait (walking) cycle. For instance if the feet turn out when you walk or if certain muscles in the feet are too weak. Anyway- I hope you have success with the “bunion breakers”:)

  3. Elizabeth August 10, 2016 at 9:33 AM #

    Hi Ariana
    It’s an important topic.
    I think my right foot bunion developed due to scoliosis in my spine.
    I have not worn heels in the past and have narrow feet.

    My podiatrist said that over the counter products don’t change anything.
    I know I can try and walk with toes apart.
    Most people probably do not. They give it no thought.
    Being conscious of habits is the first step!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How to Treat Bunions [Part 2 with VIDEO] | Ariana Rabinovitch yoga, meditation, healthy livingAriana Rabinovitch yoga, meditation, healthy living - December 13, 2013

    […] This one is for the ladies – ladies with bunions. Unfortunately women get bunions more than men do. For the most part I attribute it to the shoes we wear. For a broader discussion of bunions and basic self-care, check out How to Treat Bunions Part 1. […]

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