Always Something: Bunion Edition

In May, I stepped up onto a step and felt a sharp pain in my foot near my big toe.

It hurt that day, and then I forgot about it. I went to Cancun for Memorial Day weekend, ran on the treadmill a few times while I was there and felt fine. But after I got home, any time I did workout that required stepping up onto something, the pain came back.

Eventually, it started hurting when I ran. And then it started hurting almost all the time. I could see the problem — the bone/joint/thing below my big toe was inflamed and red, and sometimes the pain went from the side of my big toe down the side of my foot. My first instinct was to use this as a reason to make Andy rub my foot all the time, so I kind of liked it.

Also, I thought it was probably nothing. I mean, it was just one weird step. So I began training for the Newport Half Marathon in September, which runs right past my office and near my apartment in Jersey City. I decided to “train for real” for the first time, and that meant interval speedwork and tempo running.

I probably chose the worst possible time in the history of my foot to start running fast intervals.

My foot wasn’t getting any better. I really thought it was just a bruise. But it seemed to be getting worse and last week I went to a foot doctor where I had an x-ray. He told me what I already suspected: I have a bunion.

Here’s what I learned from the doctor:

  • Bunions are genetic.
  • I always had it. I never noticed it because it never acted up. Training for and running a marathon did not irritate it.
  • That day I stepped weird — THAT injured it and “woke it up.”
  • My bunion is very minor.
  • My current situation can be resolved.
  • My bunion will get worse over time. (Thinking of my grandma’s feet, I’d have to agree with that one.)
  • My insurance might pay/help pay for orthotics which will take the pressure off the bunion part of my foot when I run, which will help right now and over time.
  • The bunion will continue to shift and get worse but there are measures I can take to keep it at bay.


What the hell? Why is there always something? I’ve had more than my share of injuries over the years, and I totally understand overuse injuries. But all I did was take one weird step. ONE! Granted, I’m sure running and working out over the last few years contributed to my bunion being so susceptible, but still. I was ready to “train for real” for the first time! Speedwork! Things that I didn’t previously understand and scared me. 4 x 800. Or, 8 x 400 as I did by mistake because of my terrible reading comprehension skills.

Dori's bunion
Before I was a runner, I swear I had really pretty feet.

Here’s what the doctor told me to do:

  • No running for a week
  • Ice and take anti-inflammatories if necessary
  • Wear flip flops a lot less often, because they likely contributed to it getting worse
  • Get a cortisone injection
  • Go back to see him in a week, at which time he can check how it is doing and tell me if my insurance approved orthotics

That was last week. I got the cortisone injection on the spot, but it hasn’t been the amazing wonder drug it usually is for me (I’ve had cortisone injections in my shoulder and hip in the past). Tomorrow morning I’ll go back and find out if I’m getting/paying for/paying partially for orthotics and see what he says about when I can run again.

I’m guessing I’ll need more rest because it’s not looking or feeling much better. I’ve been going to Refine and substituting exercises that would aggravate the bunion, and it’s actually comforted me hearing that many of my Refine instructors had this same injury themselves from years of dancing in pointe shoes but are now pain-free.

And now, when I wear certain closed toe shoes, MY BUNION POKES THROUGH.

Who else has bunions? Comfort me by telling me you are also deformed.

tl;dr: My foot was 100% fine while doing all things marathon, I took one weird step and now my foot is forever ugly and I am worried I won’t be able to run ever again for the rest of my life.

ETA: The doctor told me Toms are just as bad as flip flops so I sabotaged my own recovery. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, kids.

33 comments on Always Something: Bunion Edition

  1. Ellen
    July 24, 2012 at 10:06 am (5 years ago)

    Oh, Dori! I have one of those! I never even knew you could do anything about it, I just figured that I was stuck with it. And mine is worse than yours. It’ll be fine. I still wear flipflops, even (although not as much because I’m afraid of getting my toes stepped on).
    Ellen´s last blog post ..Soon to be starring in my nightmares.

  2. Amber
    July 24, 2012 at 10:07 am (5 years ago)

    Ouch! I don’t have bunions (yet?) but my mom had them something terrible and I’m always worried one day I’ll wake up and have inherited her feet. She actually had to have surgery for hers but I am guessing your feet aren’t that bad (they don’t look *that* bad)!

  3. Katherine
    July 24, 2012 at 11:08 am (5 years ago)

    Oh I’m sorry to hear your bunion flared up and has put such a damper on your training!! If it’s any consolation, I’ve treated bunions a good bit and had success reducing the inflammation and minimizing the pain. My bunion patients are back up and running with no problems!

  4. Melissa
    July 24, 2012 at 11:27 am (5 years ago)

    Never wear flip flops. NEVER. I know they’re easy and comfy, but they’re so very bad for your feet.

    I’m sorry about the pain. I hope goes down soon and you can get back to training!

  5. Laura is Undeterrable
    July 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm (5 years ago)

    Yup, I’m with you. Between genetics and years of figure skating and dance I have both bunions and tailor’s bunions. I don’t wear constricting shoes anymore, roll my feet on a golf ball and stretch my toes. I’m pretty pain free, but I haven’t had any acute injuries.
    Laura is Undeterrable´s last blog post ..MCM Training – Week 4

  6. Marie
    July 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh, gurl. Not to trivialize your situation, because I know these things can be traumatizing, but your bunion is teeny tiny compared to mine, and I’m still running! When I started having a lot of pain, I saw a podiatrist, who didn’t help at all. Then I saw a sports physician, who gave me some good advice on how to stave off the inevitable. I wear a toe spacer to correct the position of my foot (got them for like $3 on Amazon) and Sole orthotics, which are like 50 bucks but they last forever.
    Good luck, it’s really good you’re getting on top of this thing early, I let mine get really bad before I ever did anything about it. Be smart about your shoes and they probably won’t get any worse for years and years and years!

    TMI bunion post, if you’re interested:
    Marie´s last blog post ..11 obnoxiously overused mommy blog posts

  7. Mariell @ HealthyPantz
    July 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh man, it really is always something, right?! I totally feel your pain. Curious to know what measures your doctor recommended to help keep the bunion at bay?
    Mariell @ HealthyPantz´s last blog post ..Mykonos! (Greece part 1)

  8. Elizabeth
    July 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm (5 years ago)

    My hubby has the worst bunions in that his big toe now crosses his second toe, causing them to rub into blisters whenever he runs. He has found that padding it sometimes helps, wearing the correct type of running shoes with arch support have also helped. His doc said the same thing: i.e. get orthotics, wear supportive shoes, stay away from flip flops, and eventually it will require surgery to correct. PS they break your feet for that!
    Elizabeth´s last blog post ..Race Recap: Camp Mowana Run Through the Pines 5K

  9. cameo
    July 25, 2012 at 8:44 am (5 years ago)

    Boo! Sorry, mama. That bites. In a related story, I too stepped up and did something wonky to my big toe whilst wearing flipflops. I was also hammered so when I woke up and had a purple toe and no clue as to why it was quite distressing. Still hurts. Moral of the story, FLIP FLOPS!

  10. Nancy
    July 25, 2012 at 10:48 am (5 years ago)

    Sorry to hear about your foot! Hoping for a speedy recovery! I did not realize flip flops and TOMS (!!) were so bad for your feet. Wow.
    Nancy´s last blog post ..marathon training / week 6

  11. Brandi
    July 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm (5 years ago)

    Ahhhh sorry to hear about this! I have a bunion too. It was so bad at one point that I seriously considered surgery. Now I’m just more careful about the shoes that I wear and I quit my part-time retail job that had me standing around for 8-9 hours in heels. As long as you take care of it and dont wear any shoes that crunch your toes together or irritate it, it should be manageable. I’ve trained for several half and full marathons with no prob! Ice and rest when you need to!
    Brandi´s last blog post ..A Taste of Virginia Tech

  12. DigitalSuze
    July 26, 2012 at 12:15 am (5 years ago)

    Funny, I just realized yesterday that my weirdly-shaped foot — and accompanying blisters due to speed work and a gait shift — is due to a bunion. I was freaked out! So far, I’ve ordered Yoga Toes and a Bunion Bootie. My hope is that those will help slow the progression. I don’t have regular pain — yet — but trying out speed work has definitely made me aware of it. I’m curious about which shoes have the widest toe boxes.

    • Marie
      June 16, 2014 at 11:46 am (3 years ago)

      I recently purchased a Bunion Bootie too and love it. It’s the perfect amount of gentle tension to keep my toes from touching and protects irritation from my running shoes. I wear Asics, I’m not sure if they have the widest toe box but buying a full size bigger in Asics has always done me well, thank goodness!

  13. Blanaid Farrell
    July 26, 2012 at 5:53 am (5 years ago) You are definitely not ALONE. I am the co-owner of a Foot Solutions store in Stillorgan, Dublin, Ireland. The majority of our female customers come visit us because of painful bunions. Take my word for it – your feet are not as ugly as you imagine – in comparison with some of the ones coming in to us that is. Keep wearing the orthotics as they will help to take the pressure off the bunion and prevent it getting worse.

  14. Sara
    July 27, 2012 at 10:02 am (5 years ago)

    I had bunion surgeries about 4 years ago. My feet didn’t look *too* severe (though my husband described them as “fear itself”), but I had a lot of pain in the joint of my foot. My surgeries were really quite easy and repaired my feet quite well. I only rarely suffer discomfort, and it’s nothing like it once was.

    It is good advice to take care of it now. Like you, mine were genetic, and my poor mother’s feet are quite bad. They look awful, she has trouble finding shoes, though she has minimal pain in that part of her foot.

    I have some pictures and more info if you’re interested – Just let me know. Good luck, and take care of your feet! :)
    Sara´s last blog post ..DuClaw Beer arrives in style

  15. Kimra
    July 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm (5 years ago)

    I have bunions on both feet (genetics + pointe shoes in my teenage years). They’re mostly fine, but I avoid lunges where I step backwards because that can irritate whichever foot I’m stepping onto. My PT recommended toe spacers if they ever start to bother me while running.

    On another note, when you’re back to running, see if you now get the Splits|Laps tab on Nike+ with the GPS watch. It seems to be giving me fractional times/paces for non-full miles. Probably I am too much of a creepy blog lurker because when I saw it, I thought, “Dori will be happy!”
    Kimra´s last blog post ..Less-Wordy-Than-Usual Wednesday: Stamps

  16. Brandi
    July 28, 2012 at 2:40 am (5 years ago)

    Hi, I just spent 45 minutes reading your blogs about your hip injury, your NYC marathon, Richmond marathon, and your doctor’s visits. I think I may have a hip labral tear, which I’ve thought this since December. What sort of exercises did you do to help strengthen things? I do a lot of squats, clam shells, lunges, etc… I’m too poor and without insurance to go to an actual hip specialist and spend thousands on a MRI, so I’ve been trying to remedy it myself. I know that may not be smart, but it’s all I can do now. My chiro told me it’s just a tight right hip flexor, but I don’t think it is. Sorry for the novel, I love your blog!
    Brandi´s last blog post ..Listening To My Body.

  17. Nikki
    July 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm (5 years ago)

    Ah yuck. I have them too. The one that is acting up for me is actually on the outside of my left foot, on my pinky toe. It presses when I wear sneakers and run, which causes stress on my tendons. Youch! My doctor gave me a list of acceptable shoes to help, and I’ve gotten different sneakers to see if that would ease anything. Unfortunately 2 miles in those shoes left my tendons aching all day still. I pushed through and did my half marathon with this going on, trust me, I could barely walk for a week, so I have no interest in repeating.

    Orthotics will cost me $300, but I dont’ have a good gut feeling that those will make a difference so I’ve really hesitated in buying them

    I did a lot of reading and found people found some relief using the vibram five fingers, and my thought was why not give them a whirl. They don’t have a firm outter wall to push on the bunion and thus pull on tendons. It would allow free movement there. Honestly, for me, these shoes have allowed me to run and not be sore for the rest of the day or the next. So far, so good. It hasn’t been a long time, but I’m hopeful so far. It’s at least allowed me to get out and be active. I may eventually end up getting the surgery though, because then I’ll be done with it.

    Good luck, girly, this stinks for sure.

  18. Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run
    July 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm (5 years ago)

    I had bunions on both feet. The right foot was always the worst. It was painful and I wore wide shoes most of my life. All the women in my mom’s family had them. Almost 10 years ago, I went to a foot doctor and had surgery. They shave down the bone. It was in a hard cast for a week and then a soft shoe for about 5 more weeks. It was an inconvenience to say the least, but now it’s gone. :) Although, the one on the left is still there… but not nearly as bad.
    Jen Correa @ Mom’s Gotta Run´s last blog post ..Recommitting

  19. Grace @ Balancing Me
    August 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm (5 years ago)

    So, I completely freaked out in June because I was 100% positive I had a bunion, too. I ordered a “nighttime bunion regulator” off of Amazon because I was sure of this, and needed to do SOMETHING before I saw a podiatrist.

    Well, I finally saw a podiatrist in late June. He took XRays and confirmed that it wasn’t a bunion … I had a ganglion cyst. It was disgusting. He extracted the trapped fluid immediately and I (aside from crying like a little girl because of the giant needle) was immensely relieved.

    Bunions are genetic in my family, too, though, and this fake warning to me has me very careful of what I do and do not wear (heels with enough toebox space, etc).

    Best of luck!
    Grace @ Balancing Me´s last blog post ..and it begins.

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2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Always Something: Bunion Edition

  1. […] doctor for some pain that had been bothering me for a couple of months and as it turned out, I had bursitis caused by a bunion and I had to take a few weeks off running. When I came back to my running, I decided to forgo the […]

  2. […] running, I didn’t know if I’d even be able to go to this race. I didn’t think my bunion would ever heal and when it did heal, my back pain started.But I wanted to run this half marathon SO […]

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