Years ago, I already learned that separating your big toe from the rest of your toes when walking, might prevent the forming of bunions and bunion pain. (See also a previous blog post, where I wrote about the jikatabi, a boot worn by Japanese forest workers.)
Now a Japanese company has developed a new, modern version of this boot: the tabi. Watch this video to see how the tabi affect the position of your big toes. Whether or not it will help ease bunion pain or reduce your bunion size is something you have to find out for yourself, but I myself would really love to give it a try.
Last summer, as I switched to custom made insoles again, I also decided to get a couple of MBT shoes (there was a shop that sold these kind of shoes located conveniently next to my podiatrist's practice). And I must admit, after using them for about 4 months now, I really, really like them!
The first day, I only had them on for half an hour or so and I felt quite unstable and walking on them made me very tired in my ankles. But only after a week or so I was completely used to them and already had them on for the whole day. They completely take the pressure off the balls of my feet, and therefore I almost don't feel the bones at the base of my second and third toes anymore. The size is wide enough, so I don't feel my bunions either (however bunion pain wasn't the problem for me anymore).
They say you have to be very careful when walking the stairs with these kind of shoes, but that doesn't really cause a problem for me (and I live in a house with lots of stairs). There's only one thing I cannot do with these shoes, and that is driving a car.
I came across an interesting piece of information this week when I was studying the bones and muscles of the feet. My goal was to understand what exactly is going wrong when you develop hallux valgus (‘hallux valgus’ being the condition where your big toe is turning towards your second toe). Bunions are often accompanied by hallux valgus, as is the case with my own feet.
So I was engrossed in this medical textbook (reading this kind of stuff takes ages, because I'm not familiar with most of the medical terms) when suddenly I read something that I found really interesting. I quote:
The author further mentions that the toes of a foot that has never worn shoes are in alignment with their respective metatarsals (the bones leading up to them). And the illustration accompanying the text shows that in such a foot the toes are indeed much wider apart.
While this information was sinking in, I suddenly recalled an interview I read a couple of months ago. It was an interview with the General Manager of Kumfs Shoes (a New Zealand shoe manufacturer and retailer). According to her, New Zealand feet tend to be wider than the average person's. I'm beginning to wonder now if that can be explained by the fact that Kiwi's prefer flipflops (or even no footwear at all) to regular shoes – something we immediately noticed when we spent some time in New Zealand a couple of years ago.
Now, I don't think I can realign my big toes by simply starting to wear flipflops. But I might be able to prevent the deformation to progress any further. So instead of wearing my flipflops only to and from the bathroom at night, I'll start wearing them more often. Fortunately, I own a pair of toe socks already (it's too cold to do without at the moment). The only inconvenience of wearing flipflops is that they don't go together with my insoles. Thus, I'll have to alternate.
Update Feb 2011:
Recently I learned that only wearing flipflops isn't very good for your feet, and that you shouldn't wear them all day long (see this study by Auburn University).
Though I love my yoga toes, I cannot wear them very often: I'm on my feet for most part of the day. And though I tried, I really cannot walk on them!
But now I found out about these yoga sandals. Maybe you've heard about them or have seen them before, but I'm living in Europe and some things take a while before we pick them up...
Anyway, I wonder if some of you can tell me if they're comfortable when you have bunions. They spread your toes, which is good, but are they comfortable to walk on for a couple of hours? And doesn't the skin between your toes get irritated when you wear them too much? And what about wearing them with toe socks? Would that be possible? (It's too cold here to do without them at the moment!)
I've watched a video about yoga sandals on Youtube – the yoga teacher and some of her students (with bunions) seemed to be very pleased with the effects the sandals had on their feet.
Do you agree? Please tell me, what do you think about them?
The other day I received a newspaper clipping about the strangest shoe I've ever seen: the Vibram Five Fingers. Actually, I wouldn't even call it a shoe, it's more a foot glove really.
As I don't own a pair myself, I cannot tell you from experience what it feels like walking on them. But I do believe these 'shoes' could make good 'bunion shoes', because they keep your big toes in a straight position when you're moving around. Something no other shoe can do – as far as I know.
Besides, I've always believed going barefoot is good for your feet. (And I'm not the only one: read this article to learn more about the healthy habit of walking barefoot.) The foot is a complex mechanism: it consists of about 30 bones and joints, and lots of muscles, tendons and ligaments. For your feet to stay healthy, you have to put those musles etc. to work. Which simply isn't possible when you force your feet into (narrow, high heeled, pointed) shoes.
Personally I don't go barefoot often, because it hurts (especially the ball of my second toe). But these 'foot gloves' might change that. The upper is made of a stretch fabric (which I suppose will accommodate your bunions just fine), while the sole is made of rubber. This might prevent the pain associated with going barefoot for me.
Though they're originally developed for sailing, climbing, and hiking, I cannot see why you couldn't wear them around the house. True, they look a bit funny, but I'm sure you'll get used to that.
If you already own a pair of Five Fingers yourself, please leave a comment and tell the rest of us what you think of them.
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