In this weeks education microdose I'm covering one of the most common yet misunderstood foot problems in our modern world - bunions. While there is a lot of nuance that can be explored, there are also some very fundamental truths about what causes bunions that are often overlooked.
If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading the mircodose covering the SAID principle. By understanding how the body adapts specifically to demands placed on it, we gain a much clearer understanding about how the shape of our shoes affects the shape of our feet over time.
A bunion is a progressive dislocation of the big toe joint (1st metatarsophalangeal joint) and is preventable and curable when you understand the forces that create the issue. Contrary to what many professionals still claim, bunions are not caused by genetics. While genetic predispositions are still a factor in how sensitive we are to bunions, without footwear that compresses our feet, those predispositions never materialize in the deformity. Genetics load the gun, unnatural footwear pulls the trigger. Without pulling the trigger, the bullets do nothing.
For example, someone with a very wide foot or lots of ligament laxity might be more vulnerable to bunions but without wearing unnatural footwear that has a tapered forefoot, those vulnerabilities won't be triggered.
Two elements of unnatural footwear that directly contribute to bunions:
- Tapered forefoot
- Stiff sole that inhibits big toe extension
Great visual from www.AnyasReviews.com
When trying to resolve an issue, a systematic approach is very helpful. One of my favourite principles comes from Gray Cook and it reinforces a simple approach for solving a problem for good. It's called Protect - Correct - Develop. When applied to bunions it looks something like this:
PROTECT your feet by understanding and eliminating unnatural footwear (the root cause of bunions).
CORRECT the deformity with a daily routine that helps to restore natural alignment of your toes. Toe spreaders to help unsquish your toes, self massage of your foot tissues, manually mobilizing your toe joints and time spent barefoot are all helpful techniques to accelerate progress.
DEVELOP strength and capacity in your feet to build resilience and stability. Balance training, toe yoga, hacky sack games and screening your ankles and hips to assess opportunities are all helpful. Check out The Foot Collective for help implementing all of these training methods.
Here's the important part: if you don't protect your feet from unnatural footwear, the things you do to correct or develop your foot health become ineffective. Fix the shoe problem first then shift your focus to your daily practice and be consistent with your training.
- Unnatural footwear is the root cause of bunions
- Eliminating unnatural footwear is the first step to healing bunions
- Wearing natural footwear prevents bunions and is a key element in healing them
- Toe spreaders can help but they aren't the solution
- Tissue work, mobilizations and a targeted daily practice will help resolve bunions faster. More frequent and better inputs = better outputs
It's time to change the narrative on bunions. While genetic factors can influence your susceptibility to bunions, unnatural footwear is the root cause. If you have bunions, you can heal them without surgery.
Thanks for reading and for taking care of yourself. If you have a friend, family member or coworker with bunions, share this microdose with them so they can be empowered to resolve them once a for all.
If you're curious and want to dive deeper, here are a few great resources: