Take a look at these two pictures. Notice any similarities?
The unfortunate reality is that pointed shoes cause bunions.
There is some debate in the medical world about whether bunions are caused by genetic factors or overly tight shoes. There has never been a study that directly proves that overly tight shoes cause bunions, because that would be horribly unethical to make people wear shoes that cause such pain and damage to the feet.
But take this into account. A meta-analysis from 2010 showed that in Western countries, 23% of people aged 18-65 had some degree of bunion, while over 35% of people aged 65+ had bunions.1
Those are insane numbers.
Now, look at the opposite: In a survey of culture that never (or rarely) wore shoes, no bunions were found.2
Again, go up and look at those pictures. See the link now?
Fortunately, there are things that can be done.
I've summed it up into a easy three-step process.
1. Fix your shoes!
If you don't have bunions now, fix your shoes before you do. Or if you do have bunions, this may be the most important step towards preventing them from getting worse. Take the pressure off your toes by finding the right shoes. Shoes with a wide toe box were once hard to find, but are becoming much more common. Some great examples are vivobarefoot, Lems shoes, or Altra running shoes.
If you do already have bunions, or have simply been wearing tight shoes for a long time, work to mobilize your foot. Rolfing, ball rolling, and walking barefoot can all be great ways to start to regain the health of your foot. Mobilize the toe joints and the arches of your foot to regain control of the smaller muscles of the foot that have probably atrophied over time. This is a relatively slow process, but can be very easy to do. Another great tip is using something like Correct Toes. They're simply toe spacers that help to re-establish the natural shape of your foot.
3. Move your foot.
Over the last few months I've gotten into the habit of regularly wiggling my toes. Sounds a bit silly, right? Well, go ahead and try it yourself. Try to move your pinky toe away from your other toes. Try to move your big toe independently of the other four. Chances are, if you're like me, you will have a really hard time doing that relatively simple movement. But don't give up! Keep regularly wiggling your toes, trying to spread them, working towards gaining that movement. It's taken me a few months to be able to do simple movements, and that's even after wearing barefoot-style shoes for a few years. But it's coming, and the shape of my foot has changed dramatically. The key is consistency. And wearing shoes with a wide toe box
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2955707/ 2. http://refs.ahcuah.com/papers/shulman.htm