Bunions: Not so fun-ion

Anyone who’s been lucky enough to get to know their grandparents has probably known someone with bunions. They commonly develop over years and years of stress, eventually leading to a bunion, which is a bony structure on the base of the big toe.

There are several factors that can contribute to the formation of a bunion including:

  • Frequently wearing tight/narrow shoes
  • Poor gait mechanics
  • Mobility deficits, particularly of the toes
  • Foot structure

Of those factors, foot structure is the one you can’t change.  Some people just have feet that make getting a bunion easier.  But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have bunions, or that you should be terrified if you already have them.  Avoid wearing narrow shoes, and you’ve already taken a big step towards preventing bunions.

Working on your mobility and gait can really help take things a step further. Walking with your toes out tends to put more stress on the big toe, which over time will contribute to the development of a bunion.  Having your feet excessively flatten while walking can also contribute to a bunion.  As far as mobility is concerned, making sure the big toe can extend upward sufficiently helps prevent stress to the toe, and good ankle mobility can limit the amount of mobility the toe needs to have.

So how do you put all this into action to avoid a bunion?

  • Pay attention to your walk – If you’re feet are pointed in the opposite direction when you’re walking, you’ll want to work on trying to walk with your feet pointed in a more forward direction.  If your feet flatten when you land, try doing some arch raises to build up the strength of your feet.  Make sure you’re not just curling your toes!  See if you can do 15-20 reps while sitting and progress to standing once you get the motion down.
  • Stretch the big toe – Making sure the big toe can fully extend is arguably the most important factor in preventing a bunion.  Try this stretch out and see how far you can get.  A normal range of motion for toe extension is about 90 degrees.  Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and do 5-10 reps, or more as needed.
  • Stretch the ankle – As mentioned above, having a mobile ankle makes it so the toes don’t need to move quite as far.  Try stretching the calf and ankle.  Make sure your toes point forward!  Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and do 5-10 reps, or more as needed.

Bunions can be very limiting and incredibly painful, but they are preventable to some degree, and the above information can help even if you already have one.  WebMD also has some good information on bunions in case you want some additional reading.  If you have concerns about pain in your feet, see a podiatrist of physical therapist.  They have the expertise to get your feet feeling better.  Bunion surgeries are pretty common and tend to be highly successful, but if you can make the pain better, you may get to avoid the surgery altogether!

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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