Pilates the Bunion Buster

Pilates for your Feet

Its not all about abs and buns of steel you know actually it kind of is but we will get to that later.

Here’s an update on my blog from last year concerning how I was going to deal with a developing bunion. Apologies to those of you who don’t like feet, one ex colleague described feet as “Ugly hands.” Here come the before and after shots!

Before and after pictures of a bunion following a year of targeted Pilates exercises and barefoot shoes
My bunion a year into targeted Pilates exercises and barefoot shoes

It’s still a work in progress. Its going to take time to undo years of wearing footwear that squeezed and compressed my wide feet. You can see a marked improvement in the bunion at the acute angle of the joint but the big toe is still rotated and side-bent away from its optimal position.

I’ve been able to make this change through exercise and changing my footwear. I was previously using a hand-made toe corrector but have now upgraded to the real deal:

Picture of Pilates equipment: Toe Corrector
Toe Corrector

Also I wrote a while back about my love for barefoot shoes and have been wearing Vivobarefoot shoes pretty much exclusively for a year now. The wider toe box of these shoes allow my feet to spread out and the fact that the shoes allow your feet to move working their muscles as you walk is making a real difference to those dropped arches. Collapsed arches and bunions are a vicious cycle, each condition making the other worse. The bunion alters the structural formation of the arch and the collapsed arch places inappropriate pressure on the bunion.

Pilates and muscular imbalances:

It’s all connected and this is just one of the many examples of how Pilates goes to work on your body. Many of my muscular imbalances show up on my left hand side, hence the fact the bunion was appearing here but not on the right. I know that when I do single leg exercises, whether this is in the Pilates studio or the gym the feeling is very different on the left to the right and I have to concentrate 100% on my form on the left side, whereas the right side just knows what to do.

Pilates for those deep neglected muscles:

You never hear dudes in the gym changing room talking about how today is their “Deep six day.” Its always “Legs and chest” or “Bi’s and tri’s.” The deep six is a collective term for six muscles that wrap around the top of your thighbone. Performing petty much the same role as the more famous rotator cuff of the shoulder these babies fine tune the movement of the joint in order to allow the bigger and more superficial muscles (Hey no judgements!) to do their job of moving the bones through space.

Like many small supporting muscles these guys get neglected and literally wither away and once again Pilates proves its effectiveness by inviting them to the party and returning them to a functioning part of the team. When these muscles are engaged there is a subtle external rotation of the thighbones that is transmitted through the joints and supporting soft tissue structures of the leg, ankle and foot that literally lifts the medial arch of the foot. Remember collapsed arches and bunions literally feed each other.

Many foot corrector exercise not only work the intrinsic muscles of the foot but they are designed to work much further up the body, after all your feet do not exist in isolation, and those deep six are definitely included. Subtle cues and focus on this deeper connection will also help you to feel these muscles working as part of the team. My favourite cue at the moment is the image of telescopic spiralling thigh bones.

The other great benefit of using the toe corrector is that my whole foot has become far more flexible. This allows me much better purchase on the reformer in exercises where the sole of my foot needs to be up against the shoulder pad but my toes need to be on the carriage. A stronger base of support is a stronger foundation for any exercise facilitating better use of the more powerful larger muscles.

So buns of steel really can help with a bunion.

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