Toe Separator for Bunion
- Treatment Reviews
- Videos & Guides
- Chronicity 18+ Months
This is a topic I unfortunately have a wealth of experience with. I suffered a basketball injury to my right foot ~10 years ago that left me with a bunion and hallux rigidus (stiff big toe). I've accepted that it will never heal, but I've learned how to manage it so that it has virtually no impact on me running 80 miles/week.
First things first - I would advise against the Nike Frees. I tried the 3.0 three years ago, and while they felt great (light and fast), they were a major factor in me developing a significant foot injury (capsulitis) that left me unable to walk without pain for a year. I thought that I'd never run again. Because of the Free's last, I inadvertently began overusing the outside of my right foot, resulting in my big toe (with the bunion) not doing its share of the work. The first sign, which I promptly ignored, was peroneal tendonitis along the outside of the right calf. I foam-rolled / "sticked" it away and continued running high mileage. Then the ball of my right foot swelled up and running became impossible.
I saw several orthopedic surgeons, a couple physical therapists, bought two expensive pairs of orthotics, and finally relearned how to use my big toe after a trying year.
I've learned that I need to do the following to keep my foot fully functional:
*Always be aware of my gait when walking and running. Proprioception is a funny thing in that you can sometimes lose it without knowing. I now periodically "check in" with my foot to make sure I feel the big toe pushing off and taking on about 2/5 of the load.
*Stick with lightweight stability shoes. I like New Balance because the toe box is typically fairly wide. The 90x series was great for me and I use the 1190 now. The Saucony Mirage is another one I've had success with. You may require a different shoe, but I'd recommend sticking with some support, although you don't have to go over 10 ounces.
*Interestingly, I now depend on the Correct Toes by Dr. Ray McClanahan. I tried a couple of the cheap spacers before, but the fact I can slap some socks and shoes on top of these make them well worth the expensive price. I wear them all day and night except for when I'm running or doing some other moderate physical activity.
*I have to spend about 5 minutes pre-run and preferably 20 either post-run or in the evening massaging my foot and finger-spacing my toes. My left hand spaces and my right thumb goes in between and massages the knots/bubbles out of the ball of my foot near the big toe area. I also wiggle the big toe around a bit while it makes all kinds of arthritic cracking noises to try to keep the range of motion that I have left.
That's about all I can think of at the moment.
- Physical activity per week 0-4 hours
- Chronicity 18+ Months
- Repeat injury? No
After years living with a bunion, the pain got bad enough that I opted for surgery. The surgery did help, about 80%.
I recently discovered an essential oil that REALLY really helps!! Get some Tagetes oil and rub on the sore spot. You won't regret it, I promise.
The thing that helps me (I have a mild bunion--thanks Mom) is wearing yoga toes. They're kind of hard to explain, but they are rubber toe spacers that hep stretch out your feet. I wear the yoga toes around the house. Mosty when I'm hanging out watching a movie or reading. They were pretty uncomfortable at first, so I could only keep them on for 10 minutes or so at a time, but over time, my feet have adjusted, and I can wear them for much longer.
I apply either body glide or similar or my feet before I lace up, but other than a sock (prefer Balega or Smartwool), I don't wear anything special for the bunion. I tried KTape, but I it didn't do much and didn't stay put for long. I've used it elsewhere for shin and knee issues, without any problems, but maybe I didn't do it well. I only tried it once.
If you have a good yoga teacher, you might also ask her (or him) about ways to stretch your feet. There are a couple poses that really hurt at the time but do wonders. But you want to have someone who knows what they are doing show you in person.
Lastly, I'll say that I used to wear Sauconys, but I switched to Nikes after trying on a pair of the Frees. I don't run in the Frees, but they have a wider toe box, and when I tried them on, I realized that the shoes I had been wearing were largely to blame for that blister. I isn't completely goe (I still have a bit of a callous there), but it's nowhere near as bad as it was in the other shoes. I've been reading about Hokas elsewhere on the forum and it sounds like there are a few styles that are less narrow than others.
I had a Podiatrist perform reconstructive surgery on my right foot which was causing daily pain/made it impossible to run anything more than 20mins, in Dec 2004, my left foot was to follow later.....its almost 8 years later, and I haven't bothered....and have little intention until I "have to" get it fixed
Honestly unless you are in daily pain, or the bunion is affecting training do not go the way of surgery. Foot massage, big toe stretches, arch exercises, wearing of night splints, toe spacers etc have all worked in some way to keep the left foot from affecting my life/training.....I will only undergo surgery on the left foot to reduce the width of the bunion if it became a problem with shoe fit or daily pain.
After surgery it took almost 6 months before I could start to jog pain free for short periods, and a full year before I was running properly, and entering 5/10ks, 18 months before a marathon... so consider your timeframe before surgery.
I'm glad I did deal with a Sports Podiatrist, it made it easier to discuss expectations etc, thah with a regular non sports surgeon, and he is on board with me not having the other foot "fixed", with the understanding that you just cannot leave it to its own devices, I still see him every 6 months etc, to monitor both feet.....it helps to have a good insurance plan !
At one point several years ago, my toes were so pissed off that I limped everywhere and began overpronating/walking on my heels in order to avoid putting any pressure on the joints. What helped:
- ibuprofen, yes
- changing to wider shoes with low or no heels, except for extremely rare occasions
- wearing toe separators every night, and as often as possible during the day, to stretch the joint at the base of the big toe (a rolled-up trouser sock or similarly sized cloth object is a good substitute when you're in need)
- manual stretching and massage of the toe joints as well as the swelling itself. In my case, the pointy protrusion that I was initially certain was a bone deformity was a swollen bursal sac, which seemed to soften and become more mobile after progressive massage (progressive mostly because the burning inflammation means that at first it hurts like a mother just to touch the area, but this did get much better).
I have no pain or noticeable pointiness now, but the whole episode taught me to be much kinder to my feet, and I take the time to stretch and massage them now.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
I've got bunions - found out about 2.5 years ago from my sports med doctor, and they were already pretty far along at that point. He basically gave me some pointers on how to manage them and told me that I should opt for surgery as soon as the pain became too much for my active lifestyle. Currently, I consider my bunion issues to be manged quite well, although I realize I am on borrowed time because they become painful if I am not 100% perfect or when I run over 16 miles or so. My weekly workout schedule consists of 2-3 hours strength training, 3 hours of cross training, and anywhere from 25-45 miles per week of running (depending on the season). I am trying to avoid surgery in general, because surgery can reduce range of motion in the big toe.
Here are some things I absolutely must do to keep my pain managed:
1) ALWAYS wear arch support and shoes in general, with the exception of yoga or pilates. I should note that I also have very flat feet, which makes the arch support doubly important. You can get arch support for most types of shoes if you look around.
2) SHOES: Avoid wearing any shoes that pinch the toes in the front. The wider the toebox, the better. I only wear heels for going out, and even then I risk paying for it over the next three days. For work, choose comfort brands and avoid heels (I have luck with ecco, indigo by clarks/clarks, and privo). Never wear shoes that are unsupportive in front (such as ballet flats, driving mocs, flipflops), stiffer is beter. For running, you don't necessarily need those super supportive bunion shoes. I run in plain old stability New Balance shoes with an arch support, because they tend to be nice and wide in the front. Be sure to check out a running store because they are used to dealing with bunion issues.
3) REHAB: My toe is more comfortable when in a straight position, so I tape a toe spacer between my toes at night (you can get them at any drugstore - I actually use two per toe). If my bunions are acting up, I'll also tape my toes before running or working out. There are also some exercises that I do.
4) EXERCISE CHANGES: Complete at least 33% of my weekly running mileage on either a treadmill or an unpaved trail to lessen the impact on my feet. I also avoid exercises that will cause me to go up on my toes (such as lunges and calf raises).
5) WHEN BUNIONS ARE ACTING UP: Ice the inflamed area and take Aleve. This is what I have found to work best for me.