Hereditary Bunion Myth: Part III of III | By Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM

You have probably heard the saying by Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Prevention is the best approach to achieving good health, but many times when it comes to painful health conditions, we do not implement strategies for prevention. Sometimes, we do not know how to prevent a painful health condition from occurring due to lack of education. Other times, we choose to ignore information that we do know regarding prevention, because we have not personally experienced the pain associated with the development of a preventable condition, like a bunion.

When I speak with people who have bunions, I meet a mix of people. Some have not been educated on how to prevent a bunion and have no idea their shoes are deforming their feet. Other people understand how their footwear is promoting bunion formation, yet choose to wear shoes that hold their big toe joints in partially dislocated positions for most of their waking hours to meet the standards of fashion, attractiveness, profession/workplace, and cultural norms.

In my experience, pain is the most powerful motivator that gets a person to address their bunion deformity.  Many people are barely observant of the subtle changes that are occurring to their toes over the course of their lifetime, but when they notice a painful red “bump” on the side of their foot, or their toes are overlapping, they begin to draw attention to their feet. In other words, these people did not prevent their bunion from occurring, and now need to decide upon an appropriate way of addressing their partially dislocated big toe. Sadly, many of these people are told that their problem is the result of faulty genes (hereditary), and will require surgical correction, permanent arch supports for life, and is prone to recurrence. This is what I was taught, and it is not correct.

Many people believe the hereditary hypothesis, which we disproved in part I and part II, and allow a surgeon to cut through their bones and place plates and screws into their foot. Having performed many bunion operations, I can personally attest to the ongoing problems that many people have after this surgery, even when meticulously performed.  The greatest misfortune these people endure is the lack of education regarding how their footwear caused their deformity and will cause a recurrence of their bunion, sometimes in just a few years. It is not uncommon to have one’s bunion “removed” more than once.

A better way to treat most bunions is to understand what caused the bunion and begin reversing or eliminating those factors. As we have carefully outlined in parts I and II, footwear is the primary cause of bunions, so any preventive program must teach people with bunions to choose footwear that is widest at the ends of their toes, based on the Shoe Liner Test™. Secondly, bunion reversal is hastened when a toe separator is used, especially a toe separator that will accommodate greater levels of correction over time – Correct Toes is the best toe separator to accomplish this. Correct Toes should visibly move the big toe away from the second toe. Best results are accomplished when a person with a bunion can wear Correct Toes in natural footwear all day, for all of their activities. Finally, because people with bunions have worn shoes with tapered toe boxes for most of their lives, they have caused an imbalance in many of the small arch muscles in their feet. In the case of bunion deformity, the abductor hallucis muscle becomes overstretched and dysfunctional, and the adductor hallucis muscle becomes shortened and progressively dislocates the big toe (see the video below for further explanation). This requires progressive rehabilitation exercises to correct.

In conclusion, you are likely reading this because you are like most people and have not prevented your bunion from occurring. No problem – you are normal. Don’t feel bad, very few people have been taught how to prevent a bunion.

Here are the steps to bunion reversal, no matter what stage of bunion you have developed:

1). Choose footwear based on Shoe Liner Test. Your footwear MUST be widest at the ends of the toes, or you will not be able to reverse your bunion deformity. Wide shoes are not sufficient, they must be widest at the ENDS of the toes.

2). Wear Correct Toes toe separators and increase correction over time, per product instructions.

3). Perform the bunion stretch and foot strengthening exercises.

4). Respect the need for your body to change over time, as it did as you developed your bunion.

5). Take a picture of your bunion before you begin your reversal program, and progressively over time, to help you observe the subtle corrections.

6). Send us your before and after pictures, which are better than any form of evidence that bunions are reversible without surgery.

In our experience, the only type of bunion that cannot be progressively reversed with this program is when the big toe joint is fused and has no motion. In this situation, surgery might be a good option and then following up with this program, which is also a maintenance program.

Please help us get this information out to your friends and family.

In Health,

Dr. Ray

9 thoughts on “Hereditary Bunion Myth: Part III of III | By Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM”

  1. I have been wearing Five Finger shoes now almost two years. The shoes themselves hold my toes apart and allow my toes and intrinsic muscles to flex and move better than tight toe box shoes. I am now where not only my toes and arch are much stronger, but also my legs, back, hip, and knees are as well. I may never have back problems, knee, or hip problems as a result of using barefoot shoes.

    1. That’s fantastic, Richard! So happy to hear that natural footwear is having positive effects on your entire body.

  2. I started developing bunions at the age of 15. By 18, I had pretty large bunions with my big toes pointing towards the other toes. Why would such a young person develop bunions? I wore athletic shoes (granted, they were “regular” running shoes) and flip flops in the summer. It was hardly the tapered shoes most adults wear.

    1. Keep in mind that conventional athletic shoes, possess those attributes (tapered toe box, heel elevation, toe spring, and a rigid sole) that can negatively affect your foot’s position and function. Wearing this type of footwear over many years starts to cause foot conditions, like bunions. An individual’s physiology and soft tissue elasticity can also play a role. This renders some feet the ability to return to their natural foot shape after removing tapered toebox footwear and other feet to more quickly take on the unnatural shape of the footwear permanently.

  3. I have Taylor’s bunions. I’ve had them all my life and for a very long time didn’t know they were a thing. Just thought I was cursed with wide feet. Anything that can be done for Taylor’s bunions?

  4. Interesting series. I respect your saying that bunions are not hereditary. How is it then that some get them and some don’t, even they were identical shoes? Not to mention hammer toes on top of it. Also, if not hereditary, how is it that bunions are observed in the parents and children and may skip one? there got to be a genetic factor at play as well as environmental factor. I switched to minimalist and wide toe box shoes years ago and would love to see my bunion (only in left foot) improve. As far as hammer toes (2nd toe in both feet) isn’t surgery the only option (Dr Mark went through it)? It’s a real pain as it interfere with my running and walking and I lose my nail again and again. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.