Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ooh me aching bunions

It's just as well that I like taking pictures of my feet every so often because I can now see the evolution of my "running bunion". I used to think that feet and especially my feet were ugly things, that is, until I started running in minimalist footwear. Now I see them differently - they are a work of art, a scientific miracle, a vital component of my running speed. You may not seem them in the same light so be warned that THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS MIGHT CAUSE DISTRESS

Brooklyn bridge, summer 2009, just before my stress fracture

Hanoi, summer 2012: sweaty feet and red shoes don't mix

January 2013, soon after tripping over (again)

May 2013

These are not my feet

As you can see, if you were able to see anything between the fingers of the hand you had covering your eyes, the bunion on my right foot has got significantly worse since I tripped over that bloody paving stone in London back in January. I was diagnosed with a hallux rigidus (stiff big toe) as part of a general check up I did in 2007, something that I had never noticed before. It was true: I can only lift my right big toe up a fraction of the angle I can lift my left big toe. I never gave it too much importance, to be honest, but I think that now I run using my toes much more (thanks to ultra flexible running shoes), my stiff toe must influence my running gait and my running gait must influence my stiff toe.

Now it seems as though my hallux rigidus has progressed to a hallux valgus or "bunion". In fact, I first heard the Spanish word "juanete" and it took me a while to put two and two together. For me, a bunion was something that my grandma used to complain about when she was alive and, more recently, that my mum has had operated. According to this recent news article from the BBC, there appears to be scientific evidence suggesting that bunions can be inherited (thanks gran! ;-) ).

I've seen some pretty gross pictures on the internet of feet with big toes that curl over the rest of the toes. I haven't quite got to that extreme just yet, but it's obviously getting worse and it is slightly painful sometimes, as well as making my shoes fit badly. One option is to have an operation but I'd really prefer to leave that until the situation becomes unmanageable because it will mean, amonst other things, not being able to run for weeks / months.

What I am going to try instead is the Correct Toes toe spacer, pictured above. You can either just wear them at night or also when you are walking (I'm not sure running with them would be very comfortable or even possible in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers). The problem with wearing them while load bearing is that they might act as a sort of crutch, thus weakening the very muscles you want to strengthen. I don't see an issue with wearing them at night and hopefully the bursa (the soft padding between bones and tendons) will shrink back down over time, helping the toe to realign.

As usual, I'll report my progress here for anyone who might be interested.


  1. How did the toe spacers work for you?

    1. Good question. To be honest, I couldn't find any work shoes wide enough to accommodate them and still look like work shoes, so I ended up going for a compromise: a spacer between my big toe and the rest. I kept this up for a while but have not noticed any measurable change, only that now my bunion doesn't hurt any more and, as a result, I have stopped bothering with the spacer. It would be nice to be able to realign the toe somehow... but I'm too lazy. Let me know if you have any positive results. Thanks