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What's a bunion?
If you’re like many people (especially if you are a Greek foot type, when your second toe is longer than the first), your big toe may lean slightly toward your other toes. Over time, the base of the big toe pushes outward against the first metatarsal bone, which is directly behind it.
The result is a bunion - a bony, often painful hump at the base of the big toe. Bunions form at a joint. That’s where the toe bends normally when you walk or dance on demi-pointe. But when you have a bunion, all of your body weight rests on it each time you take a step.
It can hurt even when you walk and much more when you put on your pointe shoes.
Why does one get a bunion?
Foot problems typically start in early adulthood. As we age, our feet spread, and the problems tend to get worse. Bunions can run in the family. They may be just one of many problems caused by weak or poor foot structure. Pointe dancers, though, are more likely to get them because the tight box of the shoe pushes the foot bones into an unnatural shape over time.
How I know if I have one?
Take a look at your foot. See where the bottom of your big toe connects to it? If you see a bony bump there with your big toe headed in the opposite direction, you probably have a bunion. It may sometimes swell, turn red, feel tender to the touch. It may hurt when you put on pointe shoes.
What can I do?
Make an appointment with a podiatrist (a foot specialist) as soon as you can. A bunion can be harmless for an everyday life, but for dancers it is a problem which needs immediate analysis.
Should I stop dancing on pointe?
Most probably, no. Make sure your podiatrist deals with other dancers, too, so he/she understands how the pointe shoes work and will suggest you the correct padding which you will be supposed to put on every time you put on your pointe shoes.
When you are getting fitted for pointe shoes, make sure that your fitter is aware of the bunions, if they are painful or not. There are pointe models which are developped to have more space on the box's sides for bunions. If the pain is still there, try changing the box height (custom-make a pair or, with R-class models, just go from V2 to V3 option).
I do have the Greek foot type without any bunions. Is there something i can do to prevent its development?
If there is an empty space between the first and the second toe, the pressure inside the pointe box will push the first toe inside. Find a way to fill this space every time: try gel spacers, or separators etc. Make sure your pointe shoes are fitted correctly so the pressure in the box is even.