Being With Bunions

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My husband and I love going hiking. There’s nothing like the feeling of the outdoors. The rush of ascending a challenging incline. Flowers, wildlife, and amazing views become our movement back drop. What could possibly spoil all this awesomeness?

Bunions…

We had just finished a hike outside of Julian. When my husband complained about his feet, I said what could I do to help. I had just finished my Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 teacher training and thought maybe we could do something with the therapy balls on the feet. A few minutes later, relief was insight!

Up until this point, my husband only saw surgery as his only option for relief. He may still go the surgical route because of the rubbing of the shoe on the bunion. But now he has some alternative tools to use to mitigate his pain.

Here are a few of his favorite foot exercises for bunions that have been game changers for living with bunions:

Ball on the Ball

Place a single (original) Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball on the ball of the foot (not on the toes). Flex the toes around the ball, wait three breaths, and extend the toes. You can also try isolating and lifting each toe one at a time starting with the big toe.

Sweet ROLLief!

Bunions crowd the other toes. This upgrades the space between the toes and challenges the extensors of the toes (like extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus).

Feet in Line

Come to standing. Notice your feet. Are they turned out at an angle or pointing straight ahead? Point them straight ahead, look straight ahead, and notice how it feels from hip to toe (propriocept).

Stand with your feet in parallel to improve knee, hip, and lower back health.

My husband uses proprioception to notice when he’s running or walking that his feet have started to turn out. It’s made a difference in his foot to hip pain.

Hip Strength

Bunion and hips? Strong hips will help stabilize the feet and create a better sense of balance.

One range of motion (ROM) exercise that has been helpful is Hip Lowers. Stand with one foot on a block or book (also can be done on floor to modify) and one foot off. First, see if you can keep the pelvis level. Then, use the “blocked” hip to lower the pelvis as far as you can go. Come back to level. Repeat.

When my husband did this in a recent class, he fatigued quickly. This was such a great assessment movement that let him know where he needed to work on his hip strength to create more pain free walking and running.

I wish I had a magic wand to get rid of my husband’s bunion. Having the bunion exercises and tools to cope may be the second best thing!

Liked this article? Read Walking from Philly to Los Angeles
Amalea Fisher

Amalea Fisher is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor. She started practicing YTU after experiencing debilitating neck pain and it had an immediate impact when nothing else worked. 2013 found Amalea fresh off a serious illness where could not practice Yoga Tune Up® for some time. This was a reminder for her how essential YTU was to her well being and motivated Amalea to follow her dream of sharing Yoga Tune Up® with others. Amalea wants to help everyone achieve a better body within a therapeutic yoga setting.

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Jill

Great suggestions for getting started on becoming more aware of the way we connect to the earth. This is a powerful practice to become more confident, aware and mindful!

Monica Afesi

If only we still wore shoes that were made properly for our feet! I’ve recently learned of barefoot shoes which are designed to work with the foot instead of against it. I believe this would be helpful for preventing or alleviating the discomfort of bunions as well. But at least there are Yoga Tune Up balls to work it out!

Dana

For a long time I blamed bunions on my genetics – my mother and sister both had them too (and both had the surgery). Dr. Kathy Dooley – a great anatomy teacher and movement lover once told me that along with every thing else I learned while watching my mother I probably learned to walk and follow her gait pattern. So nature and nurture both joining in. I try to be barefoot, roll out my feet, watch the way my feet hit the ground, spread my toes and buy shoes with more space. Next up – hip strength. Thank you!

Rachel Taylor

I find that bunions have felt so disempowering to me– these hurty bony things just appeared on my feet one day in my twenties, punishing me for the sin of liking fun shoes (or so I thought), and I didn’t think there was anything I could do about them other than a terrible-sounding surgery. Over the years, yoga– especially learning how to press down through the corners of my feet, lift my arches, and spread my toes– has brought both relief and empowerment. Now, studying YTU and foot rolling have given me an even stronger set of knowledge and tools… Read more »

Alicia

This was a great post. I love finding new ways to connect our awareness between the connection of our feet and our knees and hips. The other day I was in a goddess pose and cued the lift of the arch from the bottom muscles of the foot and one student exclaimed with delight that she felt her outer glutes turn on when she did this. She suffers from bunions and has instability in her SI joint so will point her to this article for further ideas on how to keep doing down this path of connected awareness. Thank you!

Lezanne Swart

It all starts with the feet, right? Going barefoot and being mindful about my alignment has changed my body dramatically. And not to mention the magic of the balls 🙂 I find them such a simple and amazing tool for people who feel they have no other choices left. Great post Amalea!

Nina T

Thank you for the share! I have bunions and was recently days away from having them removed. I was skeptical about my recovery from the surgery and decided not to have it. I also have hip pain and have never correlated the two. I will definitely try the techniques that you mentioned. I will keep you posted! Thanks again

alyse

I love the idea of isolating each toe while on the ball- a difficult challenge but so great for enhancing the mind-body connection. Thanks!

Katrina Sukola

I recently learned of the connection between external rotation and exacerbating bunions. Practicing standing with my feet in parallel to improve my knee health (reduce pain), and reduce the potential of future bunions (my mother has issues with bunions) is great motivation.

Taylor

I have been taught in my YTU course about the possible causes/effects of bunions. I couldn’t believe that you could actually treat and possibly do some reversal with certain movements, correction, strengthening & tune up balls. Even without bunions I think this can represent something much bigger. We tend to be quick to want to fix hip issues, take care of our back and shoulders etc but we do not take care of our feet enough! And really this is a starting point for all of those other injuries! I certainly look at the maintenance of our feet in a… Read more »

Kammy Fung

Thank you for the 1st hand information to help people living with bunions. Learn the relationship between the gluteal strenght and foot position. Toes are something we do not usual pay enough attention to (unless they are hurt) This is the new routine for my sister after reading this article
1. Ball rolling on feet
2. Hip on the block
3. Toes interlace
4. Big/small toes isolation
5. Side plank.

Jennifer

Thank you for sharing the connection between bunions, foot positions, and hip strength. I have been noticing that my running gate is slightly off from an ideal form. When I go for runs on muddy trails, I always return with muddy ankles. This is because my feet turn out and kick the inner ankle. I often have hip discomfort and foot cramping as well. Overtime I have started to see little bumps, as if the beginnings of bunions. After reading your article, I think it is very likely that this foot position is contributing (or causing) the start of bunions.… Read more »

Noémie

Thank you for sharing your experience! My boyfriend walks in construction boots all day with his feet pointing outward. I guess he is very prone to developping bunions. Will definitely try to introduce him to the correlation between his imbalanced hips and feet.

Kat Waters

Great article and thank you for bringing to attention the correlation between hip strength and bunions. I will definitely be investigating and experimenting more on this.
I love rolling the balls under my own feet and have introduced the techniques mentioned above to clients with bunions, sore and aching ankles and feet. Very effective and helpful with relieving their discomfort.

Shai

Foot flexibility and Hip fiction and strength is a connection most of us are not aware of.
We so need to come with a manual at birth.
Thanks for the great insights.

Valérie Lavigne

Foot are the anchor to the ground and it,s so important to take care of those.

And the link with the hips is fabulous!

Thank you!

Tammy abresch

Love how you have connected your husbands foot pain with weak hips. Thank you

Tracy Wagner

What a great blog! I also have hip pain and noticed my one foot externally rotates on that side and never thought to put the two together. Just into my 3 day of YTU training light bulbs are starting to shine brighter.

Cordelia Orbach

Thank you for this recommendation! I have a very flexible and not very strong right hip and unsurprisingly a sizeable bunion on my right big toe! I have seen pediatrists who have never made a link between the two and have given me different braces to wear which relieve pain temporarily, though they do not solve the problem. I am going to add your hip exercises to my routine to try and reverse my problem!

Linda

Thank you so much for the reminder about the connection between the feet and weak hips. As a person who walks with duck feet, I will be more mindful to walk with my feet straight and strengthen my hips. Also thank you for the great tip on how to roll the ball for bunions. I will certainly use that to help my students.

Linda

Thank you for the great information regarding the connection between the feet and hips and how pointing your feet forward and not out to the side/ duck feet will give you better balance as well as less pain. I love using the balls to roll under my feet after a long day.

Amanda Shepherd

Hi Amalea:

You are so right about the foot / hip connection. I also like “threading” the toes to separate them. In YTU level 1, day 4, we interlaced toes to toes, which feels a bit weird, but is very educational and challenging. In the past have interlaced fingers through the toes to help separate them. I used the toe to toe interlace with two classes and a client over the last two days and everyone has loved it. Hope your hubby remains surgery free. Happy hiking :).

sue okuda

The connection you feel from the bunions to the hips is awesome. Makes sense and will definitely start to consider that in my own training and in what I teach. I had heard previously that bunions were linked to tight adductors — why not the other muscles in the hip and how they affect the load on the feet? Thanks for sharing your experience. Lucky husband to have you helping manage his feet!

Catherine de Marin

Interesting article – this link is a new awareness for me. Many thanks.

Yvonne Cone

I love the instruction of the therapy ball under the ball of the foot to work the muscles of the inner edge of the foot and outer edge of the toe. My PT is working on side planking exercises with me right now to do the same thing to prevent bunions and crowding, this will be a great addition. Makes so much sense.

Anja

Thank you for your article. I believe that complementary therapies are very helpful and surgery should only be last resort. I also recently read that ligament and tissue laxity are both hereditary and often a cause for bunions. Rolling the soles of the feet on the ball feels so good, next to paying attention to proper alignment both standing and walking.

Morgana Tessler

Thank you for sharing! I have many students with bunions and will definitely offer your experience. Do you have any thoughts on how a practice like this might help to prevent bunions? I have a close friend who is pretty young and just started to experience bunion growth. I’m wondering if she did this early on if it might help long-term to prevent the issue from getting worse.

Sara

I really enjoyed your blog, especially that you recommended both therapy ball technique and hip strengthening. This will be so helpful to many of my students with bunion issues. Plus, I roll out my own bunion with YTU balls, so I related strongly to your blog!

Jolie Mosser

Thank you for sharing as I have student that has had two foot surgery’s (one of them due to bunions). This practice will come in handy as well as some other useful exercises I’ve learned in my Level 1 YTU, such as big toe/little toe isolations. Even when I performed them in class, I couldn’t belief the relief I felt in my calves, ankles and feet…amazing!

Louise Johnson

“Correct toes”, silicon toe spacers have greatly helped my bunions. These are gender neutral. However, it requires getting wider suitable footwear. I can run with the correct toes in too ( I use the wide toe boxed Altra run shoe.) It has definitely improved my biomechanics. 🙂

Megan Venzin

I’ve recently noticed a pesky little “bunionnette” forming on the fifth metatarsal of my right foot. In addition to using the therapy balls to roll out my feet (great tips BTW), I also use YogaToes daily to help create space between the toes and encourage alignment. The YogaToes look a little feminine but might be worth recommending to your husband if he isn’t already familiar with this product. You can find them on Amazon for around $30!

Louise Johnson

Great tips and reminders of how to improve our walking muscles in everyday life.
I’ll get on it! Thanks:-)

Kirsten

Thank you for sharing your exercises for someone with a bunion!
I have a client who has this and the exercises you describe are very helpful for her. She could not walk without shoes, now she can!

Patricia

I had bunion surgery in my 20’s as my doctor thought that was the only solution so that I could keep walking.

I do roll my feet a lot & work on isolating my toes against a block or the corner of a wall but like your Hip Lower exercise – will add that to my repertoire.

Andrea

I too have just started to develop bunions and the “balls” are a great tool. I loved your hip strength test using the block. That is going in my next class !

Isabelle Côté

I appreciate Amalea your sharing of the success experience that you have with the foot of your husband. The exercises shared, (and tried with success!) are like new colors in my health palette ! Thank you !

Renee Bolan

I never knew the relation between the hips and bunions. Thank you!

Tisha

This was really interesting to me to learn that someone could get bunion pain relief from rolling the therapy balls on the feet. I always thought that the pain was caused by the rubbing of something on the bony parts of the foot, but as I learn more about the body, it’s muscles and connective tissue, it makes so much sense that the pain could be caused by trigger points or tissue being manipulated by patterns caused by shoes we wear or lack of strength somewhere else in our body. Very interesting. I don’t suffer from bunion pain, but I… Read more »

Christopher

Thank you for sharing this as relief for people who suffer from bunions. Curiously, I’m discovering how many disorders of the body are linked to the feet. The deeper I move into the YTU methodology and thought processes, it does make sense how fascial lines are interconnected throughout the body. In my own personal experience today with “The Roll Model” and my feet, I did experience more openness in my calf and thigh muscles.

Jennifer

The connection you make between foot/hip issues has brought to my attention, my knee and ankle that I must be careful with in regards to my bunions. The term ‘upgrade the space’ deepens my understanding of how crucial it is for the bones to live within a most hospitable environment.

Michelle

This was a great blog I do not suffer from bunions but several of my friends and students do . Feet are always a problem I think it’s a good idea to use the Yoga Tune Up balls to roll out your feet every morning.
Thanks for the great information!

Patricia

Working with dancers on a regular basis, I’ve seen my fair share of bunions! After completing the Roll Model workshops, I shared some foot rolling sequences with my class of dancers. Oh the groans and sighs during the rolling! However, the majority of the class felt relief and a sense of spaciousness afterwards. Thanks for sharing this – I’ll be sure to give the hip lowers a try next time too!

Caitlin Casella

I see a lot of students in my classes in NYC with bunions that give them a hard time in many yoga poses – the back foot in a standing lunge for example. I like that you included not only great therapy ball techniques for working with bunions, but also a strength assessment. I’ve found that strength work and self massage together to be highly beneficial for issues that begin in the feet and travel up the leg.

Mary Jane Wilkie

When seeking to address bunions, it’s important to know the relationship between the bunions and hip strength. This article makes that point, and makes suggestions for the reader to take steps with the entire body.

Marja

Thank you for this! My teacher, Annie Carpenter, has commented on my sincerely serious dancer bunions. I’ve tried the spacers, and, while I know you are supposed to actually sleep in them, mid-crummy night’s sleep, I kick them off and lose the battle with my bunions. I will surely try the rolling techniques from your advice and insight!

Steven Custodio

Interesting article, my mom also suffers with bunion on one foot, lately she keeps getting the gout so I will introduce rolling her feet and that will probably hell her if she feels pain and who knows maybe getting better blood flow will also help in preventing what appears to be the gout

Michelle W

This is a wonderful blog! I have a lot of students who would benefit from this — I especially like the ‘hip strength’ exercise, which will be really helpful to students. I just practiced it myself, and it truly helps in teaching to level out the hips. Thank you again!

Nadia

I teach student’s with bunions and I’m always looking for ways to help them. Thank you for the reminder that there is a relationship that exists between the hips and the feet. It’s so easy to focus on the obvious!

Grant

Thank you for the lovely article. It certainly surprised me how bunions are not a life sentence and big toe flexibility and strength is connected to so many big movers and shakers in the body. I’ll be sure to notice my duck feet more often and try to get my adductors and glutes to fire more!

Jasmine Ellemo

The link between bunions and hip strength is something I will begin to pay more attention to. Maybe podiatrists should as well!