Bunions are one of the most common foot problems in America. In a Newsweek article in November 2007, titled, “How to Stop Bunions,” they reported that half of the adults over 50 years old have bunions. Though that was 13 years ago, the fact is still amazing. What causes bunions and how can we prevent bunions from getting worse?
What Causes Bunions?
There are several causes of bunions and keep in mind that some people are genetically more prone than others to have bunions. However, this is a very small percentage of people.
- Walking Toes Out
The most common cause of bunions is the habit of walking with the toes pointed outward. Ballet dancers are trained to walk this way and they suffer from bunions all the time.
Years ago, any child that walked with their feet turned outward and was usually put into leg braces that ran up the knee. Sadly, this did little to help because they were addressing the wrong area of the body.
If you walk with your feet pointed outward, that is a hip issue. The rotating muscles in the hip area, there are 5 of them, have become accustomed to walking in this “open” position. For those who walk this way,it feels like the most comfortable way to walk to them. However, this can be changed to prevent bunions and I will tell you how later in this post.
2. The Shoes!
The second most common cause of bunions is shoes. Pointy-toe shoes are the worse. For women, it is mainly high heels and for men, it is either dress shoes or cowboy boots. Cowboy boots, like a woman’s fashion pump with high heels, have a higher heel and a pointy toe. This design pushes the toes into the point causing the toes to be smashed together.
In a pointy-toed shoe, the wearer must turn his foot outward as he cannot push off from the point. This puts tremendous pressure on the outside of the big toes causing the foot to rub against the shoe. The brain repeatedly sees this as a weak point and increases the amount of bone to protect the foot from the friction. The pointy toe shoes can also lead to “Morton’s Neuromas” as well due to the smashing of the toes in the point.
Choose shoes with ample room for your toes and a lower heel, if any, to prevent bunions.
The 3 Steps to Prevent Bunions From Getting Worse
- Stretch to Re-Train Your Muscles
If you naturally walk with your toes pointing out, here is simple stretch you can do at home to change the direction of your feet. Laying on your back, either on the floor or bed, roll one leg inward as if you are trying to put your big toe on the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, breathe out and just feel the muscles in your hips relaxing. Repeat this stretch 10 times and do it each morning and night. Be sure to do both legs.
2. Practice Walking
I know this may sound like an oxymoron, but few of us have ever given a lot of thought to how we walk. We got a lot of praise at 2 years old, then we have heard nothing since.
In a hallway or next to a wall, practice walking barefoot so you can feel every part of your foot as you hit the floor. Walk slowly and feel the sensations. Feel for things like, am I hitting heel first, am I stepping to the outside or inside of my foot, and am I pushing off with my toes on each step. It will take a little time and practice as we do not normally think about walking this way. Check out this amazing calf stretch.
3.Massage Your Feet Nightly
Every night I massage my feet with my hands. I sit in a chair and place one leg on top of the opposite knee so I can reach my foot. I start with the arch area, using my thumbs to press in and feel for sore spots. Just rubbing your feet, using a vibrating massager, or a ribbed ball will not work. You want to feel what areas are sore. Some areas will be more sore than others.
When you find one, hold, don’t increase the pressure, breathe out, nd let it relax. You will feel the pain go away. if you press too hard, your muscle can’t let go to relax. This is why deep tissue massage only lasts a few hours.
Once the pain stops, move to another sore spot. Continue until you find them all. Next work on top of the foot between the bones. This will help separate the toes from wearing bad shoes all day. Make sure you massage both feet. Your feet should be as soft as your hands. Your feet grip the ground on every step you take and require pliability to do their job well. The softer and more flexible they are, the better your balance will be.
There are a ton of gadgets from heel cushions, arch supports, and orthotics which can cost hundreds of dollars. These are only symptom chasers and just prolong the problem. The manufacturers have done a great job in marketing their products by making you believe that foot pain is normal. Foot pain is not normal.
If you are willing to change your mindset about shoes, your feet can be very happy. A common thought from shoe wearers is the thicker the sole, the more cushion I have to protect my feet. Did you know that the bottom of your feet have over 250 nerve endings that send messages to your brain to tell you when the level of the ground changes? This prevents you from falling down. Yet, I see more and more people, especially older people walking around in thick-soled shoes. That is marketing at its best and it does nothing to keep you safe.
Spend some time with your feet and learn that they work similarly to your hands. They need to be soft and flexible for balance. They need to be strong for stamina and they need to be sensitive to send appropriate messages to your brain to prevent falls. For more information or to contact me for a complimentary initial consultation Click Here.