MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE: Prevent Bunions and Bunion Pain

If you have a large bump jutting out at the base of your big toe, you are not alone. The medical term for that bump is “hallux vagus”. It is commonly known as a “bunion.”

A bunion forms when the big toe bends toward the other toes. It is responding to repeated pressure on the joint. The first metatarsal head of the big toe moves out of the way. That creates the bump.

Over time, the bump becomes swollen and sore. It affects your mobility, gait, and balance. It increases your risk of falling. It may become too painful to wear shoes.

If you find your big toes veering toward the others, you are not alone. Bunions occur in 30 percent of the population of most Western countries. They occur in about three percent of the population in non-Western countries.

Bunions are more common as we get older. And women are more than twice as likely as men to have bunions. A family history of bunions also makes them more likely.

Bunions also occur near the base of the little toe. These are bunionettes or “tailor’s bunions”.

Wearing high heels or cowboy boots increases the risk. Both have a sloping foot foodbed and a narrow toe box. The front of the foot pushes with force into the narrow toe box. This squishes the big toe and the little toe toward the other toes. Again and again and again.

Bunions get worse over time. They can also lead to other conditions. Such as hammertoes, calluses, and pain in the balls of your feet.

It may be too late for you to control a history of tight-fitting or ill-fitting footwear. Although you can look for shoes with a wide toe box.

The good news is this: if you start paying attention to how you stand, you can prevent bunions from forming. If you already have bunions, you can prevent them from getting worse. And reduce your discomfort.

Here are some tips to get started:

1. When you are standing, pay attention to the alignment of your foot. Notice these three points: the base of your big toe, the base of your little toe, and the center of your heel. Finding your foot tripod will help you keep your foot in neutral alignment.

2. Do not focus too much on the big toe when you are grounding your feet (see #1). Most of us tend to overpronate. Overpronation occurs when the ankle slants toward the inside of the foot. This sends weight toward the big toe, which leads to bunions. Think more about the base of your little toe to avoid overpronation.

3. Find neutral foot alignment with alternating heel lifts. Stand near a wall for safety. Lift your heel. Then place it down directly behind the front of your foot. Repeat with your other foot.

NOTE: Next week I will describe how stretching your toes can help with bunions.

Summing Up:

Bunions occur twice as often in women. They may result from wearing high heels or cowboy boots. Paying attention to how you stand can help prevent bunions. And reduce your discomfort if you already have them.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for education and information only. It is not a substitute for a doctor’s opinion.

Photo credit: © Caglar Gungor |

Via Anderson, E-RYT, is a Yoga and movement coach and teaches the Intelligent Movement Forever system of healthy movement in a weekly online class, in private sessions, and at Yoga Vallarta during the high season. This 77-year-old grandmother practices what she preaches and teaches. She is the author of “How to Move Without Pain: A Compendium of Intelligent Movement”, to be released in 2019.