Bunions and More

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I have written at least a couple dozen blogs since my last entry many moons ago. And they are all in my head. Time to put thoughts on computer.

At this very moment, I am semi-reclined with my left foot elevated and iced following surgery a week ago. My hapless disregard for the health of my left foot over the years allowed a debilitating hallux valgus, AKA bunion, and hammer toe to progress and require surgery.

There is some controversy as to the origin of bunions. According to researchers who examined over 2,400 adults from the Framingham Foot Study, significant heritability of bunions was found.  This study claims to be the first findings of heritability of foot disorders in humans. I am not convinced.

Although I am only a study of one, my experience over the years goes like this: Commit the time and effort to manually flexing and stretching each individual toe downward toward the sole of the foot, repetitively, daily. Include ankle and foot joint mobility, and lower leg muscular flexibility and strength exercises.

With consistent, daily, repetitive movement, I enjoyed happy, painless feet. Life gets busy, right? And there is only so much time I have to commit to my daily fitness program…45 minutes on my toes took a back seat over the years.

Hallux valgus...preventing you from kicking butt and taking names

Hallux valgus…preventing you from kicking butt and taking names

And, of course, my shoes, including my running shoes. I thought I chose well, picking a running shoe with a wide toe box to accommodate my developing bunion. It turns out, according to Dr. Ray McClanahan, of nwfootankle.com out of Portland, OR, our rigid footwear is the culprit. Industrialized world footwear elevates the heel above the ball of the foot, bends the toes upward (known as toe spring), and squeezes the toes together.

Over time, this deforms the foot, leading to a host of foot problems, gait abnormalities, musculoskeletal pathologies. My path to the operating room was a slippery slope of my negligence and need for further education on foot health.

In Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, Katy Bowman clearly highlights that we need to know and love our feet if we wish to enjoy our golden years as mobile and independent individuals. We must embrace that in order for the entire body to function optimally, we must move more AND move better!

Come back Friday to delve into the foot care regimen I intend to follow post-surgery.

Enjoyed this article? Read Adductor Hallicus: Bunions Be Gone

Lisa Federico

Lisa Federico, MA, is a Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 teacher, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, RYT-200 teacher, and Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Lisa emphatically shares her passion for movement with her students. In class, she speaks the language of anatomy and kinesiology, bolstering her participants awareness of their own bodies. She remains an eager student, herself, digging into the complexities of the human body and its phenomenal capabilities. Sidestepping spinal surgery in 2008, Lisa unearthed her path to completing her first full Ironman in 2014. Daily, consistent , intentional movement applied to the body you know so well...your own...will compel you to live a robust, expansive life. Lisa inspires her students to embrace their body, mind and spirit...to self-explore and savor the ride!

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Evelyne Demers

Thanks for this article! I also have bunions in my pinky toes… The balls really helped my get more movement and awareness into my feet. Before they were just a block. I agree that education is the key. We can prevent bunions and everyone need to know about! Next step for me is starting to were minimalist shoes. I just ordered them!

Sara Dewhurst

Thanks Lisa for this article. I also am not convinced that bunions are heredetary. The fact that we pass on the same type of footware to our offspring is in a way heredetary, but I believe bunions can be prevented. Thanks for the inspiration and for reminding us how important minimalist footware is!


Wow, I too have them and thought they were hereditary. I have been athletic my whole life, and yes have been guilty of stuffing my feet inside tight, cramped tennis shoes and sport shoes. I never knew I was able to do anything to prevent them from becoming bigger. I know 3 people in their 50’s and 70’s who’ve had the surgeries, and they say they wish they never had to go through it, so now in my 30’s I definitely can take your advice and stretch and strengthen my feet and ankles!

Karen McGovern

Being a bunion owner myself. I pay careful attention to my feet and make a special to play with my toes daily. As ugly as they might appear my bunions do not hurt and I continue to enjoy good health with my feet. I agree exercise those feet. They are your foundation. If they hurt your whole body will hurt!

Stacey Cabrera

I never knew much about bunions until I started working with the yoga tune-up balls. Not because I now have them, but because my awareness of my body in general is heightened, especially in areas like the feet, that may not seem glamorous. I was having a little bit of pain in my feet, but nothing like you are writing about!! I have been using my balls daily starting with my feet as well as very limited high heel wearing and i have noticed a huge difference. I feel like I will dance into my twilight years 🙂


My father suffers from hallux valgus and its really starting to effect him now in his late stages of life. We take these things for granted when they work properly.” we need to know and love our feet if we wish to enjoy our golden years” so true! Thank you for this post! Great read!


I have many clients with this problem and many of them mistakenly think that this is simply about high heels.

Little do they know that the formation of bunions comes from so many different sources. It is typically a sign that there is a compensatory gait pattern.

I don’t think that people quite understand the ramifications of having a bunion, myself included. I had no idea that a bunion can cause ingrown toenails! And they can be extremely painful. Of course it makes perfect sense but it’s yet another reason to take care of your feet.

Angela Yonkovich

Thank you for the important reminder. We tend to accommodate the things because we’re too busy rather than trying to take the time to find what works. I appreciate this reminder, we tend to forget the importance of our feet…they are like the wheels of our car! I will commit time to my feet for better health. Thank you for sharing your experience and I will pass it on.

Sarah Millar

Thank for the information, Lisa. I continue to focus on strengthening and stretching my feet as well. Daily practise and self-love is key!

Marie-Michelle Darveau

This is interesting because lot of dancers develop bunions. I can understand in the ballet world with those awful poit shoes, but why so much in modern dance where we are always bare foot…?

Mary Jane Wilkie

This article places the blame where it belongs: footwear in industrial society. She might be “preaching to the choir,” however, because I see all around me women (and men!) in shoes that cannot possibly make the feet feel good. I would introduce another factor: sugar. At times women have developed bunions despite having always worn sensible shoes. A friend researched this and found references to what Japanese women call “sugar toes.” Given America’s addiction to sugar, I think it is worth exploring the connection.


It’s interesting that a study showed that bunions have a high rate of inheritance associated with them. I’m curious how much that has to do with anatomical similarities in families or with how we learn to move from our parents. Furthermore, it’s interesting that unlike the rest of the body when the foot hurts we immediately go to support and not to strengthening and reconditioning.. Why weren’t you convinced by the study? Was it just due to personal experience or have you helped other people correct their bunion issues as well?

Michelle Jordahl

This was a great blog today in Yoga Tune Up we went over caring for the feet and keeping them flexable. I stopped wearing high heels along time ago.

Peggy Stevens

After 30 years in 4 inch heels and a slightly torn (but unrepaired) acl on my right knee I finally developed a challenged left hip and a bunion on my left foot (hallux of course). Articles like Lisa’s will always grab my attention. I am a true fan of Katy Bowman and will look forward to following Lisa’s progress with her bunion. I have no intention of surgery as I have not had any clients or friends with any long term success stories. Following the methods of both the Roll Model and Katy Bowman’s book I have found improvement but… Read more »


I have a bunion, but not too big and does not cause pain. I never knew why or how it came about, but i like how you described the foot positioning in our shoes, because that makes a lot of sense! Our toes are scrunching in and causing a bulge on the opposite side. I feel like mine is hereditary because my Dad and his sisters feet all look similar with bunions, but no one’s have been painful or bad enough for removal…maybe it is just a little bit of an eye sore! hahaha


I do believe that heredity can make us more prone to bunions /perhaps not cause them but contribute to their occurrence. My mom had horrendously painful and large bunions on both feet, some of this caused by improper footware. I never wore pointy shoes and hardly ever high heels, and a bunion began to appear on my left foot in my teens. I still have it today, fortunately combined with a straight big toe and good gaps between my toes. Both my mother and I had a good deal of hypermobility and laxity in connective tissue — you can pretty… Read more »


It is very important to give your feet some love! Yoga Tuneup Ball work, foot strengthening exercises, etc. are all very important. However, in my experience, most of the time bunions have less to do with the foot and more to do with hip mobility and function. If you can’t load and support your body, particularly in gait, with proper actions taking place at the hip, the feet will pay the price.

Pascale hazledine

Self care is definitely where to start,using stretches and rolling the ball are such simple things but so effective ,I do this with all young moms in pre-natal yoga,we need to teach this to them while they are young!


I have not yet experienced the discomfort of a bunion, but as a runner I know the debilitating effect a foot injury can have on your level of activity. We are woefully unappreciative of our tender ‘tootsies’ until it’s often too late. I will be doing more research on this topic thanks to your blog post Lisa, thanks!


Thank you for your blog. Great tips on bunion prevention and foot care.


I am also not convinced of the hereditary argument for bunions. Standing with improper footwear for long periods of time is what did it for me. Wondering if i will be able to avoid the surgery with more diligent self care


Thanks for this article. I have almost given up on my bunions that I have had over many years of dancing. I will try to commit giving my feet more TLC and attention with the flexing and stretching.

Dustin Brown

Its so interesting that sports shoes are often the culprit!! I have my studio members do many YTU® inspired moves for the health of their feet and have even had a client exclaim after a class that her bunions are shrinking!! (Straight out of savasana! lol ) Thanks for the great article!

shari Williams

Lisa great information. I always have students with bunions and the big ah ha for me is that of flexing the toe downward! I instruct toe isolations and ankle circles, but after flexing my toe here sitting in my chair as I write this-it is a wonderful stretch, and I notice my foot that has no bunion at all was much easier than the one that has a start of one–thank you for my future of functional feet!

Charmaine Garry

Great article! I too have done work to correct and strengthen my feet. It takes time for things to change and a conscience effort to get some work in everyday. The bunion on my right foot is better, but the left foot will take more work.


There are many problems that bunions can create if we do not take the right precautions. The key of avoiding bunions is to wear roomy shoes that have wide and deep toe boxes (the area that surrounds the toes), low or flat heels, and good arch supports. One should avoid tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes that put pressure on the big toe joint.