The Curse of the Hallux Valgus

I have a curse. It’s not rare, it’s not life-threatening, but it is a curse. Some days it hobbles me more than others, and I have to gingerly mince my way around.

Thank god for corrective footwear.

For those of you familiar with the term, ‘Hallux Valgus’ is a curse that modern people live with because we wear shoes (Orthogate, July 20th 2006). The problem manifests as a “lateral deviation of the great toe, often erroneously described as an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the head of the big toe” (Wikipedia article). Although the condition is commonly known as a bunion, the word bunion refers just to the bump that grows on the side of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint (Orthogate, July 20th 2006). The technical term ‘hallux’ refers to the big toe, while ‘valgus’ is an anatomical term referring to the direction of the toe away from the midline of the body (Orthogate, July 20th 2006). There is some disagreement over the causes of hallux valgus; likely, it is influenced by both genetic and lifestyle factors  (Wikipedia article).

In any article you’ll read about hallux valgus, you will probably also see it described as a ‘deformity’. I’m sad to have deformed feet, but fully admit to their lack of functionality. I also have low arches, problematic in combination with hallux valgus because my feet roll precariously inward when I’m walking, hiking, or running. For a while I struggled with serious plantar fasciitis in both feet. I wear expensive orthotic footwear to correct these problems. Wearing these orthotics feels silly, though, since the problem originates with our human tendency towards wearing shoes in the first place. Proper stretching and care of the leg, ankle, and foot muscles can aid the problem through strengthening and stimulating the proper network of nerve muscles (reference: my personal experience).

As I go into my third year of having to be consciously and painfully aware of the deficiencies of my feet, I truly hope that the curse of the hallux valgus does not strike future generations. Maybe we need a few years of walking in bare feet as children to avoid the ‘boxing’ effect of shoes on the structure of our feet. Maybe we should have children do specific flexing and walking activities to ensure early prevention of foot-related problems. Either way, these foot problems are indicative of our modern society, fashion-obsessed culture, and sedentary lifestyles.

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