Understanding Bunions
Blausen.com staff (2014). Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014. WikiJournal of Medicine

Understanding Bunions

When you hear the word bunions, you think of something painful, unattractive, and sometimes embarrassing. Today we are going to look at what bunions are, how you can prevent them, and– if you already have them– how you can work with them to improve comfort and mobility.

What bunions are

Hallux valgus, commonly known as a bunion

A bunion occurs when your first toe, the big toe, crosses over the second toe. In these situations, the big toe does not extend (as it naturally should) from the foot bones in a straight line. Instead it leans at an angle, and what you can see from the outside with a bunion is the tip of the big toe leaning heavily towards the second toe. 

This picture clearly shows the big toes leaning, and the resulting bunions.  What you can’t see here is what is actually going on inside the foot.


What causes the crossing over of toes that you see with bunions is the metatarsal bone (the foot bone that links to the big toe) twisting, which then causes the first toe to also twist.

Blausen.com staff (2014). Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014. WikiJournal of Medicine

The effect of this twisting is that instead of moving up and down, the big toe now moves more left to right.

The discomfort of bunions is caused by two small bones that live under the metatarsal at the base of the big toe. These two small bones are floating in a tendon, similar to your knee cap. When your big toe is rotated, a lot of the weight of your body lands on just one of those bones, instead of having the two bones share the load. That’s a lot of pressure on a small surface area.

Structural imbalances in your feet, your legs, and the rest of your body can also lead to bunions. These imbalances change the way that you walk, and if you are not walking well, or efficiently, it can start to create a bunion.


One thing you can do to prevent a bunion in the first place is to be aware of your shoes. Pay attention to the toe box, the section at the front of the shoe where the toes rest. Find shoes that have a wide toe box or, more accurately, a toe box that is wide enough for your foot.

Ladies, think about those high heels that you may be wearing – when you have really narrow shoes, your toes get really smooshed in there! This can lead to a bunion, because when your toes have nowhere else to go, the bones start to rotate so they can fit more easily into your shoe.

There is a lot more to say about high heels, but we can leave that for another post. Your body belongs in things that actually fit in order to function properly. So instead of trying to cram your feet into things that aren’t the right size, or the right fit, be mindful of how your shoes feel, and how your toes feel in them.


There’s a lot that we can do preventatively, through bodywork, to reduce your risk of creating a bunion or to try and correct foot alignment where a bunion is already present.

To address a bunion in a bodywork session, we work on all of your soft tissue, especially on the underside of the foot. We may focus on things that are attaching to that first metatarsal, encouraging it to de-rotate and sit straight, so that the toe is pointing straight up and down again. This effort doesn’t always result in a complete recovery, but it is a really good first step to work towards alleviating pain and improving foot function.

My intention is to deliver freedom from your chronic pain, so that you can experience the joy of moving your life forward. If you’re looking for help with bunions, would like better functioning feet and in turn a better functioning body, contact me to schedule a session today.

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