Bunions are a fear of every dancer, and not just from a pain standpoint. I have been in pointe shoes since the age of 9 and twenty years later, I insist on squeezing my feet into gorgeous sky high tango heels many times a week. Pain is not an issue, but my ego… oh my ego, is rather attached to the beauty of the feet I have been training for the last quarter century and bunions are…. ugly.
So let’s talk about causes bunions. Bunions are created when the bursa at the head of the first metatarsal becomes inflamed. This inflammation can happen for a number of reasons, but most often it is created when the flexor hallucis brevis and adductor hallucis become tight and inflamed due to overuse, misuse, and improper footwear. The adductor hallucis is the muscle that pulls the big toe laterally towards the other 4. The adductor hallucis has oblique and transverse heads. The oblique head begins at the base of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th metatarsals and ends along with the flexor hallucis brevis at the lateral base of the big toe, think mid-arch to inside of the big toe. So if you are looking you at your foot, this head runs from the midline of the foot approximately 1 inch in front of the fleshy mound mound of the heel, diagonally to the inner bottom of the big toe.
The transverse head is located between the ball of the foot and the beginning of the toes, running transversely from the inner corner of the big toe to the little toe. It shares tissue with the plantar metatarsophalangeal ligaments of the 3rd, 4th and 5th toes and blends into the oblique head just behind the 2nd toe.
Because so much surface area is affected, bunions and the muscle patterns that create them, seriously weaken the structure of the foot. If you suffer from bunions and adductor hallucis pain or are looking to prevent it, maybe while still wearing sky high heels, there are some great Yoga Tune Up® poses to help strengthen and de-stress the foot (come back Friday for a video clip!)
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I have actually read all the different blogs this evening about bunions and there is so much good information and linked video included in each of them! As a figure skater, my feet are locked in super tight boots with a relatively high heel…and my toes are feeling the damage. I am looking for all the ways to keep my feet healthy, happy and yes pretty 🙂 Thank you for the great explanations about these bony protrusions and ways to mitigate their presence.
I impressed, I need to say. Actually rarely do I encounter a weblog thateach educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough persons are talking intelligently about. I am very completely satisfied that I stumbled throughout this in my search for one thing relating to this.
Nice article! I have a hereditary predisposition towards and sort of developing my own bunions. I am always interested in any piece of sensible information. I don’t think that mainstream medicine has much of that to offer. Balls to the rescue!!!
This is a great explanation of the causes of foot bunions and the ways time, shoes deprivation chambers, and use shape the foot muscles, fascia, and bones. It’s eye opening to see how fascia responds to the way we use our body, and the bones follow. Thanks!
Thank you for explaining bunions!
I’ve had mini bunions my whole life, thinking they were just genetic since my mom has them. I need to spend more time stretching and rolling out these muscles as well as strengthening them in the correct position. thank you for this post!
I also developed bunions at a young age from competitive figure skating and have had 3 foot surgeries to correct the problem. It took a long time and a lot of work to get my mobility back after the surgeries. They are starting to develop again so I am going to definitely going to use my Tune Up balls and exercises to avoid any future surgeries!
I had bunion surgery over 20 years ago on one foot (both the big toe and pinky toe side). It was incredibly painful, but I went back to wearing heals again. I do think it’s important to change shoes often and I purchased the yogi toes to place between my toes at night. I think the anatomical description you provided is most helpful and I look forward to reasing the next article and watching the video.
Hi Jamie! Thanks for this article, I’m really concerned with all these foot exercise, I have a problem with heel pain from my left foot and these therapy balls make such a difference that I figured I might as well do all the foot exercise.. thanks
I have bunions on both feet, not from dancing, or heals, or tight shoes. I have what I would have previously described as hereditary bunions… all the ladies in my family have them. But after much discussion with fellow Tune Up yogis, I have been exploring the “real” reasons we all have bunions. Your detailed description of the muscles at play really helped me sort this out! I am more convinced now that it is a function of how we all walk…. in particular, some of us walk with an internal rotation of our hip (pitch-in toed). I walk and run with the bulk of my weight rolling in on the medial side of my foot. Your explanation has showed me how this would put uneven pressure on the adductor hallucis, flexor hallucis and brevis, making them tight for sure! Thanks!
I found this very interesting as I have a painful bunion on my right foot. I’d like to release the discomfort and prevent any further damage to the big toe. I couldn’t seem to find the video and will be checking back, in the mean time I’m rolling on the YTU ball and using it across the top of the adductor halluces, and flexor halluces brevis.
It is so exciting to know that there are other ways to relieve and prevent the inflammation of the Adductor Hallucis. I wonder if there are other long distance runners that are having issues with their AH as I am, most of the articles out there talk about wearing the wrong shoe as the cause of the inflammation, but they never mention running as one of the reasons.
I am not sure if yoga corrects bunions, especially severe ones. However, I find practices that emphasize padha bandha can be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Yoga Tune-Up ball therapy does help symptoms.
Thank you for this great explanation ! will have love to read more and more about this ! having sustain a foot injuries as a teenager my foot and ankle and “up the path” have been struggling to reach full mobility , specially to squat better and deeper ! i am looking forward to read more about it !
Thanks for the anatomical explanation of causes. The morning after Class 4 of YTU Teacher Training foot work, my dogs were barking, especially that nagging almost-bunion on the right foot. I will be including this work in my regular practice to help heal my feet and hopefully stave off surgery.
After spending most of my life dancing and in pointe shoes, I have to say that it was less the pointe shoes that caused the bunions and more the walking with hips in extreme external rotation ALL the time. That being said, and I may be missing something in your article, but I thought bunion’s were caused by the body sending more bone were bone is needed?
Thanks for the article! It seems it was mostly geared toward dancers, or those that knowingly have forced their feet into shoes that weren’t properly supporting the muscles of their feet. I have not had personal experience with bunions but my mom has them, but has never been a dancer or one to wear high heals/unsupportive shoes, but she is hyper flexible coupled with a slight scoliosis which I’m sure are the contributing factors in her case.
Hi Jamie! Thanks for this article. One of my Pilates client’s developed bunions so early in life that she actually had surgery on both feet at the age of 20. While the pain in her feet has improved, after 10 years of an abnormal gait, her hips and lower back have paid the price. I can’t wait to start using the YTU balls to get her moving better from toe to head.
Thank you Jamie for the anatomical info! I could do Sitting Seza in dorsi flexion all day… on my left foot! my right foot has a painful bunion from a martial arts injury (improperly kicking a sturdy 16yr old male shin). I heard a crack, Ouch!, popped a bursa?? It didn’t hurt enough to have it checked out but as time passed a bunion formed. Since then I have found that interdigitating the toes really helps. I am determined to, if not reverse the damage, at least to keep it from getting worse. Short sessions of Sitting Seza with the strap are becoming tolerable, and helping to increase the flexibility of the joint.
Many workplaces still insist on women wearing heels. Sometimes it isn’t just vanity, but livelihood that is an issue… Also, I feel really pretty in heels. 🙂 I’ve never investigated bunions before, but this was really informative! Thanks.
The feet, most of us don’t give them much thought until we start to hear from them- the dogs start barking. But the feet set the cascading effect for the rest of the body aiding in mobility & stability.
This information is so exciting, as I write this I’m thinking of ways to do the opposite and un-do the damage that has been done for years, partially to genetics, improper/limited footwear (as in a communist country where everyone wore “the shoe”, god forbid it came in half sizes or …brace yourself..widths???!!)
I hate my bunions, and along with that came the “hammer toe” which I was stupid enough to have a surgery on (luckily only one foot) and now am paying for it because I have no movement in the proximal phalanges joint /deep transverse metatarsal ligaments. I’ll take my curly toes that can function any day…
I love the yoga tune up foot sequence and my husband for giving me foot massages almost everyday 😉
But please post more, I only know the basics.
Over the years, I’ve heard people refer to bunions but didn’t understand what they were talking about. (I thought it was like a big callous). Understanding inflammation in the flexus and abductus halls and how to treat the inflammation through stretching is a helpful reference for me because I’m always in constricted footwear. Also got a great tip today at YTU about toe extenders. My Mom has a bunion and now I know what I’m getting her for Mother’s Day. Thank you for sharing this helpful information.
Thanks for this nice informative article! Little I knew about the adductor hallucis and how his immflamation can lead to this problem. This remind ourselfs how important is to stretch our toes and take care of our feet, and the relation that our feet have with the hips and knees to maintain a stable posture.
Wow! This article is great! The Adductor Hallucis sounds like a magician’s incantation but who knew it did so much! My question is more about the inflammation…Where does it come from? I have often heard that there is bone rubbing together but in my case I think the correlation of the anterior pelvic tilt with the flatness of the arch are huge contributors, maybe even a weakness in teh core…not to mention my years in pointe shoes, orthopedic insoles and ballet class. I guess the real question is …which came first the misuse/overuse of the Adductor Hallucis or a weakness in the core muscles that anteriorly tilt the pelvis into distortion….or just gosh darn giving genetics! Thanks for the thoughts!
I once heard and it made sense to me on a less technical level that a bunion was the body adding a 6th toe because of an imbalance in the grounding of the feet. The Yoga Tune Up® method is a method that will bring back the balance.
Hello, Jamie. Thanks for the article. Very useful to know for some of my clients. Will the video be there soon? Can’t seem to find it.
I have learned in the past that another way to look at bunions is from a full frame point of view: if you engage your back muscle and lift up the gluteal region (the buttock) the the knees have a tendency to lock in., and come close to each other. As a result the medial arch of the feet collapses and the transverse arch is stretched long and weakens. This in turn happens after the ankles roll in; pushing the metatarsal of the big toe go out and the Proximal Phalanx of Big Toe go in by the pressure.
Try to stick your butt out and arch your lower back (which happen also with heels and then your knee will come together then observe what happens to your toes if you exaggerate.
Now round your lower back and the opposite pattern will appear.
Find a comfortable balance in between and stabilize it thru yoga.
After that the solution is in your article. With a broader focus on the hips in order to release the pelvic bowl and bring it more in balance.
I want to see the video as for me it was the missing link go my rehabilitation program’ s puzzle.
thanks for this. i wonder about bunions a lot, especially because i was told by the podiatrist that the teeny one that i started to see growing a few years ago was “partly genetic.” my mom suffers greatly from hers but i dont know if its more the pain or the fact that she “cant wear nice shoes anymore” (ironically thats how she got the bunions in the first place, of course!)…i wondered what is “genetic” about bunions beyond the fact that you imitate your parents walk and inherit their general body shape? also i have little bunions on the lateral side of my feet (next to pinky toes) which my PT once called “bunionettes.” what are these and how do they form? any ideas? can i undo them!?
I picked up a pair of shoes today that has me a little scared to wear after reading this and remembering how crucial feet are to happy healthy movements through out the day as we come and go. They were a little tight fitting compared to a half size up from them, but I liked the look of the narrower boot-ego gets it every time when it comes to fashion-sheite… I look forward to seeing the video that accompanies this blog post when you get it up, so that I can feel better about wearing my kicks!
I really like this post and am looking forward to practicing the exercises. As someone who’s toes are curling under from wearing improper fitting orthotics as a child, I have new hope of finding change in my feet that i was made to believe was permanent.
Feet are such a huge part of our mobility combination in the body that we take for granted. Also having danced myself, minor dis figuration of the pinky toe forces me to seek out healing techniques that can hopefully at the least inhibit any further progression of deformity and pain. Keeping the feet healthy, so it doesn’t begin to creep up the body and begin to affect the knees, hips, back etc is what TYU can help with. Can’t wait to see the video!
Proper footwear can help but there are many other factors. your foot is the last thing that hits the ground. You may be walking on this part of your foot due to tightness in any of the chain of your body. The body works as a unit so we cannot just stop at the lower leg to see where bunion problems are coming from. I have seen it come from hip, shoulder, places where someone lacks some form of external rotations and tightness. Some people say genetics. Sometimes but a small small fraction. This is all just talking about my experiences not someone being right or wrong.
Also a dancer, a bit shy of a quarter century, I was extraordinarily surprised to hear that bunions could be prevented. I still love wearing five inch heels for a night of dancing, and your right, for so many of us pain is not the issue, but rather how disfigured our feet look from years of abuse. I wish I could have had access to the therapy balls and techniques years ago. In the meantime any suggestions as to how to reverse the damage already done.
Can’t wait for your video. I hope there is a way to undo some damage and correct to whatever degree my left foot bunion. Looking forward to your next post.
Nice anatomical article – as a former participant in the world of dance – I am always looking for ways to better my feet so as to avoid surgery someday! Totally look forward to the video information from YTU – because with Bunion problems other compensatory problems arise – save my feet!