The Short Foot Exercise for Bunions

Does it work?
A lot depends on how much you believe that muscle strength is involved in the development of bunions.
This is the short foot exercise (SFA):

The exercise is very effective for what it is designed for and that is to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot. It is claimed to be an effective treatment for overpronation (its not). There is a bit of controversy around the SFA, most due to the extraordinary strength and number of claims that get made or what it can do, versus the lack of any actual evidence to support those claims.

Does it help those with bunions? Probably not. The problem with muscle strengthening in those with bunions is that due to the deformity (and the valgus of the hallux), the problem is not necessarily weak muscles, but a very poor lever arm that the intrinsic muscles have to exert their effect. This means that any gains from doing this exercise in those with bunions is going to be, at best, minimal in return for a extraordinary amount of effort and time needed to perform the exercise.

The exercise is a good adjunct to use in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Reflexology for Bunions

Reflexology is a non-nonsensical failed pseudoscience belief system that claims different organ systems can be mapped to the foot and stimulation of those zones on the foot can affect the health of those organs. There is no physiological or neurological or any sort of biological link between the organs and the bottom on the foot. Clinical trials of reflexology are badly done and all systematic reviews of the good published evidence clearly shows that reflexology is totally useless at treating everything. The only studies that show a results were either badly done or the intervention used was not “reflexology”, but just a foot massage.

In that context, there is absolutely nothing that reflexology can do for bunions, so don’t waste your money on it or fall or the non-nonsensical failed pseudoscience. On the other hand, a damn good foot massage will make everyone fell better …. it just won’t fix your bunion.

Kinesio Taping for Bunions

Remember all that brightly colored tape that athletes wear at the Olympics? It apparently can be used for bunions:

Kinesio taping has some controversy around it as to its effectiveness but discussion between those who do use it for bunions is that they do find it helpful. There is no research one way or the other as to its effectiveness.

It is unlikely that the taping method can actually fix bunions, as the forces making the bony changes are too great for a flexible tape to overcome, however, it may be helpful for the symptoms that are caused by bunions.

Just to be clear: Bunions terminology

A bunion is really just an enlargement of the joint, typically the big toe joint. Invariably it is mostly bone, but there is often some bursa and soft tissue swelling involved as well.

Hallux Valgus is the term that was traditionally used to describe the angulation of the big toe (hallux) over towards the lessor toes. However, valgus is a term that describes a position in the frontal plane, whereas that angulation of the big toe over towards the lessor toes occurs in the transverse plane, so it should have been called hallux abductus and not hallux valgus. But, as well as abducting in the transverse plane, the hallux does also rotate in the frontal plane, so it does go into valgus in that place.

For the technically correct use of terminology, the correct term should be hallux abducto-valgus (HAV)

Bunions and the Fitting of Children’s Shoes

The correct fitting of children’s shoes is crucial to the normal and natural development of the growing foot. That growing foot is malleable and easily deformed. There is some controversy around the use of supportive features in children’s shoes and care needs to be given when it comes to giving advice in that context. Some argue that the shoe should be minimal and not interfere with the foot’s development and others argue that there should be some support to encourage the foot to develop properly. This is not the place to get into this debate, as we focus here on bunions.

Which ever school of thought you are biased towards, there can be no doubt that the shoe for children must be wide and long enough in the forefoot to prevent any pressures that might increase the risk for bunions. The shoe must be checked and replaced at regular intervals as the child’s foot grow to prevent any problems developing.