How to Prevent & Treat Bunions For Runners

Are you a runner suffering from bunions? Then you have come to the right place.

For most people, the word bunion conjures up images of ugly feet deformities and long-term pain, especially within the running community where runners have to rely on their feet on every step.

But it doesn’t have to that way.

As repelling and scary bunions can be, there are a few measures you can take to help you live with them and keep running strong.

In today’s post, I’ll share with you what you need to do for treating and preventing the progression of bunions while running.

What’s The Bunion?

Also known as Hallux valgus, A bunion is a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint that develops on the inside portion of the great toe.

In plain English, a bunion forms when the big toe joint moves out of place, forcing the affected toe to stick out or develop a bump.

Under constant stress, the big toe joint can jut out of place, turn inward, and swell, causing a painful body protrusion on the side of the foot.

Since the metatarsophalangeal joint carries the bulk of your weight while walking and running, a bunion can cause some serious pain while running.

A bunion may start as a mild issue, but over time, may turn into a severely debilitating and disfiguring foot deformity. This is especially the case when continuous pressure is put on the affected limb.

They Are Common

Bunions are an all-too-common foot deformity that plague hundreds of millions of people worldwide, affecting roughly 1 in 4 people aged between 18 to 65, and more than one-third of people over the age 65.

This is especially the case among women who spend endless hours on their feet such as waitresses, nurses, and teachers—many of whom are also runners.

Does Running Cause Bunions?

Here’s the good and bad news.

Let’s start with the good news first.

Contrary to popular belief, running doesn’t cause bunions.

As a runner, you might be genetically predisposed to develop bunions because of the way your foot is structured—not because you logged in some miles before breakfast.

So, if your father or mother had bunions, you might have them, too.

The bad news is, running can make your existing bunions worse, fast.

Repeated load to the toe and forefront area—unavoidable while running, especially during the push-off phase of running—can exacerbate bunions. 

So can the ceaseless friction of the affected toe against the side of your shoe.

Serious cases of the bunions can bring your running routine to a halt, requiring surgery to repair the joint, which is why you should take the following measures at the first sign of discomfort or redness.

So Can You Run With A Bunion?

Of course, you can.

But you definitely need to be more careful than the regular, bunion-free, runner. This way you won’t have to stop running after a few minutes in because of excessive pain in your feet.

Keep on reading to discover what you need to do to run comfortably with a bunion.

Treating and Preventing Bunions While Running

Most bunions are permanent unless surgically removed or corrected.

But there are a few steps you can take to make running with bunions more comfortable, even to slow a bunion’s progression.

The Taping

Pad the affected toe if your bunion is bothering you while running. Taping your foot can limit direct pressure placed on the bunion while running and may prevent the progression of the condition altogether.

Non-medical pads and tapes are available at most drugstores. These are made either of neoprene, moleskin, silicon, foam or a gel-filled plastic.

In some cases, these pads are also used in conjunction with toe separators, which help relieve pain and prevent worsening of the condition.

Just make sure your running shoes have ample space to accommodate them.

Strength Exercises

It’s also crucial to keep your foot muscles strong to counteract any muscular imbalance.

Don’t get me wrong. Strength training won’t remove your bunions (since this one is a biomechanical deformity), but it may soothe your symptoms and help you train more comfortably.

Adding strength to these muscles provides your feet with better support which will improve your big toe mobility and ease discomfort while running and walking.

Muscles to target include :

  • Adductor halluces
  • Flexor halluces brevis
  • Abductor halluces
  • Fibularis longus
  • Tibialis posterior.

Here are the exercises you need :

Single-Leg Calf Raises

Shin release with a lacrosse ball

Toe Extensor

Calf release with a lacrosse ball or foam roller

Big-Toe Adductor

Have The Right Shoes

The best measure you can take right now as a runner is to head to a specialty running store to get the best fitting shoes.

If you’re running in the wrong shoes, you’re further irritating the site of your bunion.

Here are the main tips to keep in mind.

Go wide.  Wide fitting running shoes provide a lot of comfort for bunion sufferers by allocating more space for the big toe. This allows for your bunion to move more freely while pounding the pavement.

Go soft. Running shoes with a soft toe box can also help they help limit rubbing and chaffing on the bunion, especially if the bunion is tender and contains fluid.

Go Flexible. Your running shoes should have a wide, flexible sole to support your feet.

Go low. Look for shoes that do not have an elevated heel—or what’s known as ‘zero drop’ shoes.

Enough room. Your running shoes should have plenty of room in the toe box—the part surrounding your toes—without forcing, squeezing, or sliding with mesh and minimal stitching at the bunion area.

Use the Right Knot

Tying your shoes, the right way can also help relieve pressure in the shoe box.

Loosening up the laces closer to your toes minimizes the pressure applied to the toes, bunion, and ball of the foot.

Here’s a YouTube tutorial that can help you to better understand the so-called “Bunion Step-Over” lacing technique.

Seek Surgery

Taking the above practical self-care measures can help relieve bunion pain, especially when running.

Nonetheless, when these aren’t enough to keep you training pain-free, the next step is to see a doctor and review your options.

When a bunion becomes too painful and impacts everyday activities, many professionals will recommend surgery as the only way out.

What’s known as a bunionectomy, the main purpose of surgery is to realign the big toe joint to correct deformity, restore function, and soothe symptoms.

It often involves opening up the big toe joint, then realigning the bones. Messy affair but it has to be done in some cases.

Just make sure to find a sport podiatric who is familiar with treating runners. If he’s a runner himself, then you got yourself a winner.

Full Recovery Period

A bunionectomy can put you out of commission for a few days to a few weeks and wearing a surgical boot for roughly a month.

In general, full recovery from this can take up anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. Even then, going back to your former running glory should take a while.

This might sound like a long time away from your running shoes. Nonetheless, it’s a much better option than suffering severe pain on every step you take while running.

Don’t you think so?

During your recovery period, do plenty of low impact exercises to keep fit and going strong.

Conclusion

Although the above measures seem simple, they can make a big difference. Dealing with bunions while running does not have to be complicated—as long as you know what you’re doing.

You can make some simple changes to the way you train that can protect you and prevent the progression of toe deformities.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong.

David D.

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