Bunions (Hallux Valgus)

Bunions (or Hallux Valgus) occurs when your big toe creates and angle greater than 15 degrees in the direction of your first metatarsal. There are two primary factors that contribute to bunions:

  1. Poorly fitting shoes.  The entirety of Western society wears a style that resembles the ancient practice of foot-binding.
  2. Physical activity in poorly fitting shoes.  The more active time spent in shoes that bind feet and misguide toes, the more misshapen feet will become.

There are many studies out there telling you not to blame your shoes, blame genetics!  These studies fail to include these important variables such as cultural style, exercise habits, and the rearing practices of test subjects (elements that also get passed down for generations).  In other words, some families or cultures might favor a more constricting shoe shape than others.  Some families pay little attention to how their children’s feet are growing (and a shoe that is too small for a child’s foot has the potential to deform their feet).  Some families don’t have the money to buy new shoes for their children, and those children may be forced to wear smaller shoes for longer than they should.  These variables can be passed down for generations while actual genetic components have little or nothing to do with deformity.  The research studies primarily include people from cultures that wear shoes from the moment they can walk (and unfortunately, the style of those shoes prevent healthy moment and growth of children’s feet).  That means there are no healthy-footed subjects, nobody to compare with unhealthy feet.  They’re all unhealthy.  Nobody within these cultures knows what a healthy foot is supposed to look like (that includes almost every researcher within Western society).

You can barely find a single shoe that will fit a healthy foot in any department store.  You may think you have a “wide toed shoe”, but in reality, your shoe is only wide enough for the ball of your foot, then tapers all your toes together in a stylish point at the tip (see dashed orange line in figure 1).  That shape will eventually malalign your toes and cause pain, and/or long-term damage (such as a bunion or bunionette).

MensShoeToeBox
Figure 1

You can take responsibility for the health of your feet, and you shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money to do so.  There are links listed on this site to shoes that are inexpensive, practical, and stylish.

Numb Toes And Poor Circulation

Someone asked me about my sandals.  “Aren’t you always cold on days like this?  I have numb toes right now!”  It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I was wearing split-toe socks about as thick as a regular pair of socks with my sandals.

“No”, I replied.  “My feet don’t get that cold anymore.” …And they don’t.  My toes no longer go numb since I started wearing sandals year-round from about 2014.

She seemed shocked by this news and told me her toes go numb all the time.  She was wearing a pair of pointy-toed shoes with a 2″ heel.  I told her that her shoes looked like they are too tight and the heel is too high.  She said, “but I can wiggle my toes, and wouldn’t the blood go downward into the toes because they point downward?”  I told her it doesn’t quite work like that, but I failed to give her a better explanation.  I didn’t know how to explain to someone so tied to her heels and pointy toes that her shoes are hurting her feet.  I really love this person too and I wanted to be able to help her understand, but I knew that there isn’t much I could say that would have any effect.  I want to share this story here because I want to help her and other people who might find this information.  There is much more work to be done to change the health of feet for the vast majority of shoe-wearing societies.

Shoe Forces
Figure 1

Let’s say this is an example of your shoe (see figure 1).  With every step you take, your foot will follow the direction of force (purple arrows).  The only thing keeping your toes from sliding into the front of the shoe is the top part of the shoe (the laced part in this picture).  You may not be aware of it because you’ve spent so much time in shoes like these, but without the lace portion of the shoe, your toes will slide further down and crunch up at the toe.

You don’t need to wear sandals all the time to increase circulation to your toes.  Many people are in jobs that require them to wear shoes.  But, you shouldn’t need to wear heals unless you’re a model, and if you’re a model, you’re probably not wearing them around the clock, so take them off as much as you can, and exercise your feet to prevent circulation issues.