Know your bunions!

August 28 2015

HOW do our feet morph from a bean-shaped infant foot, to mildly bent big toes, to a bunion?

HOW do our feet morph from a bean-shaped infant foot, to mildly bent big toes, to a bunion?

Well, a bunion is a foot deformity that develops when the foot is pushed forward and/or downward. In heeled shoes, the toe joints are put under excessive force from the weight of the body bearing both forward and downward. Some shoes additionally jam toes into a pointed triangular area. Over time, the toes literally grow into this shape, and the large joint of the big toe produces an overgrowth of bone in an attempt to prevent further damage to the foot.

Bunions can be extremely painful and disabling. Surgical measures include literally sawing off slices of the bony overgrowth. Thought of as a problem in the elderly, they actually start in earlier in life, especially if high heels are worn regularly.

Yet often people find their big toes distorting inwards despite wearing ‘sensible’ shoes! Why? Firstly, most shoes, even trainers, are simply not foot-shaped, and will ‘round off’ the big toe. As Gloria Steinem, journalist and feminist said, ‘If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?’

Secondly, people tend to see problems like bunions as inherited - “just like mum’s feet”. Our genes occasionally predispose us to foot problems, but it is poor postural habits that allow them to develop. For example, by parking our pelvis forward of our heels and locking out our knees, excessive weight falls towards the delicate front of the foot. This pattern can also involve dropped arches and knee problems, and is often copied from our parents.

As Esther Gokhale explains, ‘the heel bone in our species is a sturdy bone adapted for weight bearing. The bones in the front of the foot, by contrast are delicate and not constructed to bear the weight of the body’. In her book, ‘8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back’, she says that we can best preserve our foot-shape via good posture that uses our whole skeleton correctly.

To find out more: Free Posture Workshop with Gokhale Method teacher Clare Chapman, Tuesday 8th August, 11am, Tart cafe, Gloucester Rd. Sign up at