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What Is Poor Foot Posture, and Is It Causing Your Bunions? Here’s How To Retrain Your Feet

It's all about keeping your toes in proper alignment.

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Our bodies change as we mature — that’s a fact of nature. While some changes are inevitable (like wrinkles and gray hair), others are often preventable. Bunions fall into the latter category; these bony bumps on the sides of big toes are usually caused by tight shoes and high heels — not genetics. However, permanently switching to sneakers and sandals isn’t enough to combat bunions. Once the toes become angled and the bony growth starts to form, it’s difficult to stop it from snowballing. That’s because tight footwear causes poor foot posture, which exacerbates the problem. To better understand this concept and how to actively fight bunions, continue reading below.

What is poor foot posture?

Foot posture is the positioning of your foot when you are standing or walking. Good foot posture is defined as: 1) your toes face forward when you are walking or standing; 2) your foot rolls forward from heel to toe when you walk and stand — it doesn’t roll inward (pronation) or outward (supination). So, poor foot posture happens when your toes become crooked, as is the case with bunions, or when the entire foot leans inward or outward.

illustration of good foot posture, foot supination and pronation
VectorMine/Shutterstock

What causes poor foot posture?

There are four main causes of poor foot posture, including injury, genetics (if you are born with an abnormal toe alignment, for instance), disease (such as arthritis and other inflammatory conditions), and tight shoes.

Tight shoes can cause poor foot posture by squishing your toes together, which changes where and how the foot bears weight. Instead of pushing through the big toe as you take a step, you start to push around the big toe. This altered movement decreases the range and curvature of your arch muscles. It also puts pressure on the side of the big toe, which leads to (or exacerbates) bunions. For a visual explanation, check out the video below.

Can you retrain poor foot posture and reverse bunions?

Proper shoes and foot exercises won’t necessarily reverse bunions. However, these steps are still valuable; they may reduce your symptoms, like a painful gait, and prevent existing bunions from getting worse. Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Wear shoes that have a big toe box. Ample space around your toes gives them plenty of room to move freely and stabilize your foot. To quickly test whether your shoes are roomy enough, try to wiggle your toes while wearing them.
  2. Invest in toe spacers. Separating your toes with silicone spacers helps relieve pressure on the side of the big toe. Spacers also place your toes in a healthy position. With repetitive use, your toes will stay in proper alignment. We recommend Correct Toes (Buy from Correct Toes, $65), which can be worn while you walk, and YOGABody Natural Toe Spreaders (Buy from Amazon, $24.95).
  3. Practice this foot exercise. As demonstrated in the above Instagram video, practice rolling from your heel to your toes with your toes splayed. Think about keeping your weight in the middle of the foot as you roll through the movement. 10 repetitions per side, whenever you think of it during the day, is a good place to start. Learn more toe correcting exercises here.

Bottom line? If you want to prevent bunions or your bunions are in the early stages, it’s not too late to work on your foot posture. Any practice is a step in the right direction.

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