Keep the Bunion Surgeon Away With These Bunion Tips
Do you have bunions that hurt when you walk?
Are your bunions getting worse each year?
Are you afraid you may need surgery for your bunions in the future?
In the article I go over the keys to helping your bunions get better or at the least, maintain your bunions and keep the surgeon away.
Your bunions seemed to just appear one day but the truth is they have been slowly getting worse over many years in your foot and you just didn’t know it as they didn’t cause pain.
What is A Bunion?
Your big toe is called a hallux by doctors. Your hallux gets bent out of position and starts bending towards your other toes. This bad position of the hallux stretches the ligaments and tendons of the big toe joint and causes inflammation and pain. If left alone long enough, your bunion gets worse and makes walking painful.
Don’t let this happen to you. If your bunions are in the intermediate stages, I show you how you can maintain the bunion in the stage you are at. If your bunions are in the early stages they maybe correctable with the exercises below.
What’s The Cause of My Bunions?
One cause is walking on the outside of your foot. Normally a stable foot makes contact at three points. At the:
- Big toe joint
- Little Toe (5th toe joint)
Walking on the outside of your foot gives your foot two contact points, at the heel and the little toe joint.
This makes the big toe higher up than it would be normally. This is called forefoot varus. The foot may or may not compensate for this.
Your forefoot (front of your foot) is in a position where the big toe can’t reach the ground until much later in your step during walking. Normally when the big toe can firmly push on the ground, there is a balance of muscles that pulls the big toe from side to side.
When the big toe can’t reach the ground on time, an imbalance occurs between these two muscles. The abductor hallucis and the adductor hallucis are the two muscles that pull the big toe from side to side.
The abductor hallucis pulls your big toe away from your other toes. The adductor hallucis pulls your big toe towards your other toes. You can think of “adductor” like “adding” to the other toes.
Normally the big toe is firmly planted on the ground and acts like an anchor to keep the big toe from being pulled away towards the other toes. When the big toe can’t reach the ground in time the adductor hallucis overpowers the other muscle and pulls the big toe towards the other toes.
Adductor hallucis also helps form two of the three arches of the foot. Eventually the imbalance of muscles causes the two arches to flatten which accelerates the formation of a more severe bunion.
Stages Of Bunion
- Stage 1: The bunion is just a little bump with no pain whatsoever. The toe has moved up to 20 degrees from where it should be. Most people ignore this stage.
- Stage 2: The hallux or big toe is starting to drift toward the 2nd toe. The hallux is now between 20-30 degrees out of normal alignment. There is usually occasional pain.
- Stage 3: The hallux has drifted further and is now touching the 2nd toe. The hallux is now between 30-50 degrees out of position. Most people have enough pain that they cannot do some of their favorite activities like walking.
- Stage 4: The hallux is now underneath the 2nd toe causing a severe deformity. The hallux is 50+ degrees out of position. Surgery is usually the only solution at this point.
What Can I Do To Help My Bunion?
Strengthen your Abductor Hallucis and Loosen Your Adductor Hallucis
Your big toe is moving towards your other toes so you want to stop this.
So you need to:
- Strengthen the abductor hallucis. This muscle pulls the big toe away from the other toes
- Loosen the adductor hallucis. This muscle pulls the big toe toward the other toes
- Find the tender points between your 1st and 2nd toe (adductor hallucis).
- Pinch all tender points one at a time with your hand until you feel a deep ache.
- At the same time, move your big toe away from the other toes. This strengthens the abductor hallucis.
- Do this for 3 minutes.
Standing: Strengthening The Abductor Hallucis
- Stand bare foot with your big toe lined up beside a marker, like the dividing line between pieces of hardwood, on the floor.
- Bring your big toe away from other toes. Toward the marker.
- Do 3 sets of 10 five times a day.
My Bunions Are Painful? How Should I Walk?
Most people walk and use their big toe to push-off in the last part of their step. Put more pressure on the other toes to redistribute the pressure. By redistributing the pressure you decrease the pressure you put on the big toe.
You should only do this if your bunions is painful, as this can make the exercises I show you less likely to help.
Strengthen Your Arches
- Put weight on the three points of your foot. Heel, big toe joint, and little toe joint.
- You should be able to put a pen underneath. Hold for 30 seconds
- Lift up one leg while doing the same exercise. Make sure you are near a wall or table to hold your self up in case you lose your balance.
- Lift up one leg and do a squat while doing the same exercise. Warning you must have good stability to even attempt this. Those with stage 3 and 4 should not attempt this exercise.
Strengthen Your Arches with Heel Raises
You can do heel raises if your bunion is not painful. You can do this on the floor doing 3 sets of 20.
Advanced: Do heel raises on the edge of the stairs with just the forefoot on the stair. Again you should not do this if you have any balance issues or your bunion is more advanced.
Strengthen Your Foot Muscles By Going BareFoot
Dr. Niremberg a podiatrist says 3 Things
- Shoes weaken bones in our feet as less pressure is put on the bones. Going bare foot puts more pressure on the bones so the bones adapt by getting bigger and stronger
- Shoes change the normal motion of our feet. Supportive shoes allow the muscles in the foot to relax. Since we don’t use them the muscles relax and the feet become flat or pronate.
- Shoes deform our feet.  A study showed kids that did not wear shoes had almost 3 times less flat feet than kids that did wear shoes.
Walking barefoot especially over uneven surfaces strengthens the muscles in your foot allowing your foot to work like nature intended. Walking on sand is even better.
Should I Go Bare Foot then?
I would encourage it for many but, in the later stages of having your bunion, the change in the shape of the bones and inflammation of the joint at the bunion makes it too painful. For those with stage 1 bunion I would encourage it, but keep monitoring your bunion to make sure you are not getting worse.
In the modern world though the practical advice I would give is that you should go barefoot in your own house and your own property and the beach.
Buy Shoes For Fit Not Fashion?
For most of you in Stage 2 or greater you should buy flat shoes with a wide front area called the “toe box.” This means you may now need a wider shoe and perhaps even a longer shoe than two years ago as your foot has changed. This calls for a re-measurement of your foot.
Flat shoes helps bunions but high heels helps plantar fasciitis. If you have both bunions and plantar fasciitis, stick with the flat shoes do the exercises in the link below, as well as the exercises in this article.
Splints have not been shown to be helpful according to the research.
For those with stage 3 or 4 bunions these separators can help with irritation and help make your feet more comfortable.
In summary to treat your bunion:
- Loosen up your adductor hallucis (muscle between your toes that pulls your big toe toward your other toes)
- Strengthen your adductor hallucis (muscle that pulls your muscle away from your other toes)
- Get custom orthotics if you are in stage 2 or beyond
- Walk more towards the outside of your feet. This takes pressure off your big toe onto the other toes. Should only be done if you have painful bunions.
- Strengthen your arches by standing on the three points of the foot
- Strengthen your arches by doing heel raises
- Go barefoot at home if your are in stage 1 or better you don’t have a bunion.
I have found these methods helpful for most of my patients at our Toronto chiropractic clinic. However according to the Chochrane Reviews, a group dedicated to reviewing research and grading it has found that, conservative treatment doesn’t help bunions. This doesn’t mean that certain specific procedures can’t help but at this time nothing has been proven.
Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.
1. The top 3 Ways Wearing Shoes Harms Our Feet and What We Can do About it.
2. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1992 Jul;74(4):525-7.
The influence of footwear on the prevalence of flat foot. A survey of 2300 children.
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