General Dance Discussion > Does dancing give you bunions?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by noobster, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. noobster

    noobster Member

    Over the past 1-2 years I've been noticing the slow evolution of little bunions on both my feet. It's starting to get to the point where my shoes are pressing on the bunions and making them hurt.

    I've never had foot problems, I've never had shoe problems, I've always had an easy time finding footwear. Neither of my parents have bunions. My mom wore high heels for many years. I wore heels for years as well before I started dancing also, and never had a problem.

    I am really suspicious that the dancing is the culprit. What can I do to stop or slow the progression?? I bought a pair of YogaToes but I'm not really seeing a difference. I don't mind wearing flats for everyday but I would like to continue dancing in heels...

    So dancers, any advice for me? Any experience with those between-the-toes inserts that go inside your shoes, or night splints for bunions? Can you dance with the shoe inserts in? Any other insights? Help!
  2. and123

    and123 Well-Known Member

    I started using toe spacers in June, and dance with them in my closed-toe shoes (but not for Latin, obviously :p)
  3. noobster

    noobster Member

    Do they help??

    Something else I should mention is that the head of the metatarsal is projecting more upward, not so much to the side as is usual with bunions. You don't see much looking down on the foot but from the side you can really see the bump poking up.

    So I'm wondering if the toe spacer would even help... :(
  4. and123

    and123 Well-Known Member

    Well, the way I look at it, they can't *hurt*. And I don't know if it was psychological or not, but the first time I wore them during a Standard lesson, I was more stable than I've ever been and my movement was so much better. Now that you mention it, I had been experiencing some pain in my big toe for a while, and that seems to have nearly disappeared. Hmmmm....
  5. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Everyone's feet are different. You may be using your feet in a different way than your mother did, even on the street. Perhaps going to a podiatrist or some other bone/muscle specialist could help you "train" your feet to articulate in such a way as to minimize the threat of bunions?
  6. skwiggy

    skwiggy Well-Known Member

    I have been dancing for many years, and just recently developed bunions. I've had bursitis for years, but the bunions are a new treat. :rolleyes:

    I'm getting fitted for orthodic inserts today, actually. I don't expect to wear them while dancing, but as often as possible when I'm not. It's probably a good idea to see a podiatrist or an orthopedic and ask. Try looking for one that specializes in sports medicine to ask your questions specifically about dancing.
  7. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    toe spacers... huh. never knew of these. i mean, have the yoga toes, but one can hardly walk in those much less dance.

    and123...where did you get yours?
  8. Standarddancer

    Standarddancer Well-Known Member

    I have bunions and I occasionally use a bunion regulator and this helps.

    I also don't wear pointed standard court shoes, I wear round toe instead. Round toe feels a way better than pointed.
  9. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Also, if you wear flip-flops a lot, it can lead to foot issues. Not sure if your bunions would be related or not.
  10. and123

    and123 Well-Known Member

    Yoga toes are EVIL :p. Can't wear them for long before going insane.

    My toe spacers look like this:
    I bought them at a local ballet supply shop, but most of the discount dance supply catalogs carry them. This particular type was recommended to me over something like this:
    because of my Freakishly Long Toes :rolleyes:
  11. Katarzyna

    Katarzyna Well-Known Member

    I have developed them before dancign, but they really started growin after I started... they can be VERY painful at time.. and the new sticky floor in the studio doesnt help.. but have not rested the spacers yet, probably a good time to do it now
  12. noobster

    noobster Member

    What is a bunion regulator?

    I don't wear flip-flops at all. I don't even own a pair. It's either real shoes or I'm barefoot. The reason I blame the dancing is chronological for the most part.

    That's interesting. I have rather long toes as well, though I wouldn't call them Freakishly so. They're maybe 1/3 to 1/2 as long again as the toes in the picture. What is it about the long toes that requires the other spacer type?
  13. and123

    and123 Well-Known Member

    Here's a bunion regulator:

    And here's a pic of the longer toe spacers on an actual foot:
    The smaller toe spacers may be too short to keep the toes separated all the way up, if your toes are long like mine.
  14. Standarddancer

    Standarddancer Well-Known Member

    yes that's the bunion regulator I've been using. The toe spacer seem to be interesting, haven't tried. Is it good? Anyone tried?
  15. Standarddancer

    Standarddancer Well-Known Member

    oh never know this, I love flip flops, I found them most comfortable things on earth!!! My feet only hurt from wearing court shoes for too long.
  16. elhughes

    elhughes New Member

    While I don't dance ballroom, as it sounds like most of you do, I am a ballet dancer and have had to deal with bunions as a result of years on pointe shoes. I tried everything to get rid of them, as it was incredibly painful, however nothing seemed to provide a long term fix. A lot of band-aids and toe spacers.

    I eventually went to a doctor to have them removed and found out I was actually having issues with bone spurs - apparently (and this was new to me) they act much like a bunion, but don't respond to your typical bunion treatment.

    Good luck!!
  17. katandmouse

    katandmouse New Member

    Any activity that involves repetitive pressure on the ball of the foot creates a muscular compensation (tension) that will inevitably lead to a bunion. This includes walking, running, playing a variety of sports, and especially dancing as dancing requires special transference of the weight onto the ball of the foot, right where bunions are formed.

    So the answer is yes, dancing can cause bunions.

    Now the question is, can I dance and prevent my feet from forming a bunion or, if I already have one, can I fully get rid of it? The answer is yes!

    The key is to understand the repetitive movement patterns that are involved with dancing, in short, we need to understand what muscles overwork and how to relax these tissues on time so as to not cause tissue overload and trauma.

    But what is a bunion?
    You probably know that a bunion is characterized by redness and swelling in the joint at the base of the big toe. You have probably also been told that it is caused by uncomfortable shoes, namely pointed shoes that cause the toes to cramp together.

    In reality, the bunion is nothing more than internal callous formation within the joint. Why would a callous form there? The same reason you would develop callouses in your hands if you worked out in the gym without gloves. Prolonged, excessive compression or friction without adequate rest leads to thickening of the tissues, be it skin or joint tissue.

    So how do we alleviate the excessive compression and give the joint time to recover? Amazingly, with just a few stretches.

    I was developing a bunion when I met Mesrop Dodoryan of Stretchability at a dance competition. The information above is what I learned from him. What follows are some of the stretches he taught me and that helped to successfully alleviate my bunion pain. In fact, my bunion has not progressed in 3 years! I know another woman who saw Mesrop for the same condition and got the same results.

    Stretch 1 (Pull the joint):
    Sit on a chair and cross the foot with the bunion over the knee of the other leg. Hold on to the big toe and stretch it directly away from it's base so as to have the joint experience a minor separation as if you're trying to pull your toe off without bending it. You should experience a stretch in the joint. (If the condition is chronic, this may be quite painful. It is natural. You need to go through this initial phase.) The intensity of the pull should be somewhere between a 5 and an 8 on a scale of 1-10, 1 feeling none and 10 being excruciating pain. This means you have to give it good enough intensity to elongate the shortened ligaments of the joint.

    Stretch 2 (Flexion of the ball of the foot):
    Still in the same position, this time hold onto the big toe and bend it down so as to cause flexion in the bunion joint. In a healthy toe, the natural flexion should be almost 90 degrees and the joint should not experience significant pain while doing this. Any decreased range of motion and excessive amount of pain is indicative of trauma in the joint. This is because shortening of the ligaments is what causes the excessive compression which in turn leads to internal callous formation (aka bunion). Again cause enough intensity (5-8). Stretch should be experienced on the top of the big toe joint.

    Stretch 3 (Extension of the ball of the foot):

    Again in the same position, grab hold of the big toe and pull it up towards the top of the ankle (flexion - if you were standing, you'd be pulling your toe up off the ground). Stretch should be experienced at the bottom of the joint, not the top. Again, cause enough intensity and hold all of your stretches for 10-15 deep breaths.

    These stretches will temporarily alleviate the compression that occurs in the big toe joint, but there is very likely also shortening of the calf, thigh, hip musculature that also needs to be addressed for complete elimination of that internal callous we know as the bunion. Describing how to address those conditions is more difficult in this forum, as it really is individualized.

    Mesrop is in Pasadena. I recommend seeing him there if you can. He also travels to Santa Cruz and San Jose periodically. (I don't believe he travels to dance competitions anymore.) Additionally, keep checking in on The site is not up yet, but he is working on it. He said he plans to post an article on bunions as well as provide a self assessment tool which then leads to appropriately prescribed exercises and stretches.

    Hope this helps.
  18. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Thank you for that informative post, katandmouse!

    I thought a bunion was the name of the distortion that occurs when the toe joint starts to protrude to the inner part of the foot caused by the big toe angling away from the inner foot, and that this is most common in people with wide feet (raises hand) or who wear restrictive shoes over time.

    IAE, I have the physical appearance of a bunion, but no pain or redness. Am gonna add the stretches above, cuz I'd like to keep the feet feeling good. And I do use yoga toes regularly (I just love how they feel) in hopes that perhaps I can even reverse the angling of the big toe and its joint protuberance.
  19. Laura

    Laura New Member

    Those are great stretches, I have a bunion that most of the time has no pain associated with it, and have been doing some things like that. I'm going to be more consistent and methodical and follow that plan, though.

    My feet were bothering me so much yesterday, after going social dancing Friday night, then sitting on a plane both Saturday and Sunday, that I went and got a reflexology massage this morning. My feet feel SO MUCH BETTER, and the extra visible swelling I was having throughout my feet are gone.

    I've also gotten bunion massage advice from my Feldenkrais practitioner (she recommended stroking over the bunion, going up the leg, to stimulate the blood flow in the area to alleviate stiffness in the joint) and a "foot opening" sequence from one of my Gyrotonic teachers. The foot opening sequence is kind of long, so I'll have to get better at doing it before I can attempt to describe it.
  20. katandmouse

    katandmouse New Member

    According to Mesrop, this is the symptom but not really the cause. It's the compression that causes the bunion, and it's the compression that needs to be addressed. In my case, I developed a bunion the same time I developed sciatic and SI joint instability. All the practitioners I saw said it was just a coincidence i was developing a bunion at the same time, everyone but Mesrop. He saw my bunion as a natural effect of what was going on in my hip. So I was given additional stretches for the hip flexors and calves. My bunion pain went away within a few months. Occasionally, I may feel something in my toe again, but I do the toe stretches mentioned above and the pain goes completely away in a day or two. I also stretch the outside of the calf which is very helpful. I do this by grabbing the outside of the foot with the opposite hand and rotate (pull) that side of the foot away from my body, keeping the knee straight. Your leg will be pulled across your body. It's hard to explain here. You should feel a stretch along the outside of the foot up the outside of the calf. This muscle needs to be elongated to bring the arch up and the pressure off the toe.

    Honestly, this stuff works! And I'm not the only one. I have a friend who was SCHEDULED for surgery. Mesrop's stretches kept her surgery free and she still is years later.

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