When the bones of the great toe are pushed out of place over a long period of time (e.g. by poorly fitted footwear) a bunion can result. This is a deformity of the big toe joint that is caused by protrusion of the first metatarsal bone.
This misalignment causes irritation and inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the toe joint. It also causes the tendons and muscles of the foot to become overworked, fatigued, cramped and tired.
1. Are Bunions Always Caused by Bad Shoes?
Poorly fitted footwear alone can cause bunions; however, a genetic predisposition makes it even more imperative that you wear properly fitted shoes.
Very often, the tendency to develop bunions runs in families and is usually accompanied by other foot problems such as loose tendons and ligaments, flat feet and poor arches.
When properly supported with high quality, well-made footwear and good orthotics, even problem feet can be kept healthy, comfortable and fairly well-aligned.
When you put compromised feet into faulty footwear (e.g. high heels, pointy-toed shoes or shoes that offer no support) you are sure to experience problems, and bunions are very likely.
2. Can Bunions Be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the development of a bunion which will only become apparent after the metatarsal bone has become misaligned.
It is possible to exercise and wear proper footwear to slow down the progression and to find some relief from the pain. Daily bunion exercises will help keep the great toe joint flexible and strengthen the muscles of the foot.
3. Ten Simple Exercises for Bunion Pain
Here are ten easy exercises you can do. Half can be done while standing and the other half while sitting.
- Take A Stroll on The Beach
In addition to wearing properly fitted shoes, walking barefoot on supportive surfaces can be very good exercise for your feet. The sand on the beach gives your feet an effective massage. The gently yielding surface helps the bones of your feet to align naturally.
- Lift A Tennis Ball
Hold a tennis ball firmly between your two ankles and steadily lift your heels until you are balanced on the balls of the feet. Hold the pose for 5 seconds and then gradually lower yourself back onto your heels. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
- Standing Toe Flex
Whenever you are standing in queue, washing dishes or otherwise stuck in one place flex your toes. Just flex them all upward so that they do not touch the floor or the inside sole of your shoe. Try to isolate your toes and lower them one at a time. This is very challenging and works well to strengthen the muscles running up your outer ankles and the outer side of your legs.
- Standing Toe Flex Variation
Challenge your toes even more by lifting them all up and then isolating the great toe and the little toe. Try to lower them simultaneously while keeping the three centre toes flexed upward. This is very hard, and it is also very effective in balancing the strength of all of the muscles of your feet.
- Big Toe Stretch
Simply use your fingers to pull the great toe into correct alignment. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Release and repeat 4 times. You can do this exercise while you are sitting, watching television or reading or as you relax at bedtime.
- Flex & Stretch
Keep all of your toes limber by pointing and flexing them. In a seated position, lift your lower legs and point your toes out in front of you. Hold for 5 seconds then curl your toes. Squeeze them tight and hold that pose for 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Practice Resistance
Flex your foot and loop a tea towel or a TheraBand around your great toe and gently pull toward yourself. Resist the pull by pushing away with your heel. This resistance training helps strengthen the muscles of the toe and sole of the foot. Hold the pose for 5 seconds, release and repeat 10 times.
- Massage Your Feet with A Ball
Keep a couple of golf balls beside the chair where you relax. Simply drop them on the floor in front of your chair and roll your feet over them to help relax and tone the muscles of the soles of your feet. Practice this exercise for at least 5 minutes; although, you will probably want to do it more!
- Pick Up a Cloth
Lay a tea towel or hand towel on the floor in front of your chair. Be sure it’s flat with no wrinkles. Practice picking it up with your toes. You can also scrunch it toward you bit-by-bit with your toes until it is wadded up in a ball. Practice this exercise for at least 5 minutes.
- Pick Up Marbles
Put a dozen marbles in a dish pan reserved for foot care. Pick them up with your toes and transfer them into another dish pan. Transfer them back and forth a couple of times with each foot. Afterward, you can fill your dish pans with hot water and Epsom salts and enjoy a relaxing soak!
4. Exercise Regularly
You should perform all of these exercises a couple of times a day. Be sure to wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes for bunions with a generous toe box that allows freedom of movement for your toes all day long while giving you space to exercise your toes a bit throughout the day.
For a demonstration of some of these exercises and a few more, see this interesting video:
6 Exercises to Fix Bunions
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