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Fix your own dang Bunion: The 8 step process

For once, I am putting the “fix” at the top of this blog, please watch the video first.
The video was taken by Eric with me and Mary working on the video by way of Skype in Pennsylvania and California:
(Addition in Oct.2011: )

Now, carefully read the instructions written out, and know that the sublety of this so-called stretch may evade you until you begin to find the FIRST place in the calf of each leg that feels just a little tight when you pull up into it, and learn to feel the release of that tension:

1. Walk around a little, get into the way your feet, heels and all feel on the floor, how they are meeting the floor, are the heels pulling up?

2. Find a doorframe with an inch and a half high sill, or put a couple of books in the doorframe.

3. Stand in the doorframe, putting the big toe joints of both big toes  (and the rest of your forefoot as it falls evenly) on the sill or a couple of books. Your feet will be at a slight angle because your heels will be lower than your toes.  Now, look straight out, not down at your toes.

4. There is tension in your calves.  Grabbing the door frame as best as you can on both sides, take your plank body back until there is not a feeling of tension in either calf. (The calf of the leg is the part between the knee and the ankle.  Do not try to do the two of the calves of the legs separately unless you are feeling wildly experimental; it won’t work.)

5. Slightly pull up your body with your hands and arms, until you feel a very slight bit of tension in your calves.

5a. Wait until the tension goes away, and repeat the pullup, (without moving yourself up and down or otherwise jangling) slightly pull up with your hands and arms until you feel a very slight bit of tension in your calves. Wait for the release of tension.

Do once more. 3 times pulling up is enough for one time.  If you want to repeat again that day, wait a few hours.  I did the sets of 3 about 3 times a day when I first was looking for the result which Stark describes.

Walk around a bit, observe your feet and especially your heels, how they contact the ground. Can the heels stay on the ground better, longer, as you walk?

I got this from this book:

My son gave me the book and 6 months later, feeling a little guilty because he had asked me what I thought of the innovative ideas in it, I threw it in my suitcase on the way to work at a Japanese music festival.

Two weeks into the festival, still waking up at 3:30 with no English books left and faced with watching the Seattle Mariners as the only thing on TV in English, I began to read Stark’s tidy opus.

I don’t much like his extensive quoting of studies of stretching dead tissue; I don’t think it speaks to the problem at all and of course I had no way of actually looking at the studies.

However, his point that the way we all know of stretching is not the whole story at all is one we all need to know.

This exercise above shows what Stark calls the “sarcomere slide” for the calves and he claimed it would help bunions.  I had a bunion brought on by a broken big left toe, and was interested to see if the “sarcomere slide” would help.

There were other reasons why I was interested, too.  From one of my early trainings on I and other Rolfers have been frustrated by bunions, they are remarkably long-lived and persistent.

This exercise helps because the bunion is living in the long attachments of muscles and tendons in the calves of the legs.

So, root it out!  It took about 2 months of daily doing of this before mine was totally gone.  Now I just do the exercise occasionally when I show it to someone, and the bunion is still gone, 5 years later.  I believe that the “sarcomeres” can learn and retain.

By the Way, you can use this procedure of “sarcomere slide” anywhere you’d like to have a stretch.  Dr. Stark is a podiatrist and his book (which I highly recommend, especially to those in the biz) is oriented to the lower part of the body.

Many thanks to Mary and Eric for figuring the above video out and how to do it with the skype session with me. Mary says to tell you that she created her bunions doing ballroom dancing in high heels, and that the pain in her bunion was gone after 2 days of doing this exercise.  It never was a very big bunion, and it mostly is gone now.

Perhaps you noticed that this edit in January 2012 has been re-numbered. I think it is easier, all the info is there without so many numbers.

This Post Has 49 Comments
  1. Wow! As soon as I read this I tried it and had great results. I will definitely be doing this to the “good-bye bunion” part. Thank you!

    1. Hey, glad it worked for you. It does feel amazing for so little apparent effort, I think, even for one try of it.
      I think it probably helps the whole postural situation as well, the tonic postural complex
      is starting right there in that area.

  2. Thanks Linda, since I’ve been Rolfed, I haven’t had nearly as much pain with my bunion and this is very insightful as to why. Great maintenance stretch. And thanks for the review on Stark’s Stretch book – following your advice and got a copy.

  3. Hi,

    I have had really quite painful bunions for all of my life (only 24 years old now), genetically inherited. I would love to do this exercise as it does make sense that my calves are too tight (quite big calves in our family!), but I’m a bit confused about how it works. Do I put all of my toes on top of 1-2″ of books in a door way? Or just the big toes? is it essentially that stretch? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Vanessa. Actually this .gif is not accurate in that it is the more traditional stretch usually done for the gastrocs/soleus, where the heel is off the floor.
      In the one I describe, the heel is on the floor.
      All the first toe joints next to the foot, including the “bunion” joint, will be on the sill or books, in this “sarcomere slide” that I describe.
      This action is very subtle, compared to the type illustrated in the .gif you have sent.

  4. Can someone put a video of how to do this because I don’t understand , how to do it and I am really interested in trying it, even post it on youtube and give the url, thank you!x

    1. sorry, Leoni, my techno expertise is not ready for this youtube, but I did make an offer for a Skype session in
      today’s blog.

  5. is this similar to a calf stretch . would appreciate a diagram please.I have tried to perform this but not sure if I am doing it correctly

  6. This post is far out the most popular. I am amazed that so many are having bunion problems. Please have patience and try this every day, it can work unless your bunions have gotten just horrible. The people that I know who have used this have mild bunions.

  7. Wonderful! Quick question though. what do you mean by, “pull up”? Am I grabbing the door frame on both sides and sliding my hands up?

  8. I have watched the videos  as well as read the blog and I must say I am excited to try this method. I am female pushing 40 with a genetic disposition to have bunions. It started a few years ago on the left foot and I have changed shoes, etc. It was doing ok until I broke my left tibia and fibula back in November. Surgery, 13 screws and 2 plates later I am in an airboot still with no weight bearing. This thing is really causing havoc with my bunion. My question is do you think I could start these exercises as soon as I can put weight on my foot? My calf muscle is almost none existent at this point. What do you think?  Thank so much in  advance.

  9. Yikes, so sorry about your injury. Please don’t start the exercise until the doctor says it is okay to stop the airboot.
    It would be a great gift for yourself to find a Rolfer in your area, as well as the exercise.
    Find one here, or backchannel me:

  10. The change in sensation of foot on the floor is quite extraordinary. I will certainly persist. I have also been walking and running barefoot with the hope of improving my foot health and preventing any deterioration in my mild (at this stage) bunions. The possibility of actually improving them is a big motivator.

    One question – is there anything similar to help with a mallet toe? My impression is that it is a problem the muscles/tendons having tightened up. I can manipulate it to be straight, but only with quite a bit of force and it goes back to its curled up position as soon as I let go.

    Thanks for posting these instructions and the associated video.

  11. I have bunions on both feet, and while they have been visible for 10+ years, I’ve never had pain from them until late last year. The one on my left foot is the worst. The bunion on my right foot hasn’t caused me any pain yet, but I’d like to keep it from happening if possible. I’ve just recently begun wearing splints at night. I’m willing to give your method a try. I’ve always been aware of my feet not touching the ground evenly, so if nothing else, maybe this exercise will help me to walk with a better conformation.

  12. Thank you so much for all your information and videos, I have started to get bunions recently, I’m on my feet all day at work, and I have found that lately when I have my foot on the brake of my car, my bunion just burns so bad. I’ve done the stretching exercise twice now and found that it is much better, my right foot was the worst, but I was starting to get the burning sensation in my left one as well. I will pass this on to my friend who has a very bad bunion from wearing high heels for work.
    You are great Linda and have saved many people from a painful surgery!

  13. I must be doing something wrong. when i lean back with my bunion on the 1 1/2″ book and heel on the floor, i feel pain across the bottom of my feet by the bunion across to the pinkie toe and can’t notice any tension in my calf. Is it usual to feel the pain across the bottom of the feet? Perhaps too much of my foot is on the book? Too little? thanks Shirah

    1. Hi Shirah,
      When you stand upright with the part of the foot closest to the toes on the book, there
      will be tension. When you lean back the tension will go away at a certain point.
      Perhaps you have too large or sharp-edged book.
      However, with pain like this, I think I would have it checked out by a doctor. No, it is not usual
      to have pain across the bottom of the feet when standing on the book.

  14. thank you! I re-measured the book i was using and lo and behold it is 2″. When i switched to 1.5″ there is no pain. Stay tuned for glorious results!

    1. Amy, since I don’t know anything about your bunion or if you can arrange to do this process, it is hard to predict the future here. My bunion got better in about a week, though it took longer for it to look better, and others have had those kind of results. Others have told me a couple of months. Here is where you have to create your own history, just work this process, which takes maybe 5 minutes tops, into your daily routine and let me know.

  15. Linda, I am excited to try this. I have very large hereditary bunions on both feet – they appeared when I was 12yo, I am not 57. I have avoided high heels all my life because of them. In the past couple years, I have started getting corns between my 2 big toes due to the rubbing & curvature. I have had rolfing… I will keep you posted as to the results from this exercise~Thanks!

  16. Linda – the intranets just tickle me. Got to your blog from the link you shared about Victoria Sweet and the notice for your bunion entry caught my eye. Bunions are a puzzle for me too. I will try this out with the next bunioned client I see and let you know how it goes. Cheers, Donald

  17. Hey Linda,

    This looks like a great stretch that works well with the nervous system. I’m a Rolfer in Austin, TX and every client that I have that has issues with their MP joint has short calve muscles as well. This of course pulls the calcaneus superior and messes with the biomechanics of the foot during the gait cycle. Do you find it’s necessary to free up any sciatic and/or visceral restrictions as well or is the stretch enough?

    1. Cristopher, of course it would be good to do a standard basic 10 series with these clients including the events you mention. Some folks don’t have access to a certified member of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, however, and this could work for them. I’m hoping someone who has not had the series will respond with their results here, as of course, my clients aren’t coming into this cold without the structural and movement work of Rolfing SI.

  18. Would this need to be modified to treat a bunionette/tailor’s bunion? Could you explain what that modification is if needed. Thanks!

  19. hola;
    it’s the simple things that work! this ex. is effective!!
    1 foot- I have been trying the heeldrop with Slight pronation off a stair,,raise up to neutral,,no pronation,,raise right up onto toes as high as you can go,,even higher..with Slight supination. it is called spiralling..
    I combine it with a sitting quad stretch( calf under thigh on floor) where you lean your whole upper body back as well.
    while you are there seated with one calf folded under your thigh, grab your knee, and gently pull up–it will give a strong stretch in the top of the folded leg foot
    my bunion straightened considerably after 1 session.
    can you let me know what you think?? I do realize-yours is simpler,,and now, that I am “fixed” I will do yours as maintenance.

    1. That’s awesome Nadia – Just wondering how you found out about this stretch and how bad your bunions were to begin with? Do you have any before/after pics?

  20. I love it that you have grasped the most important idea, that bunions can be changed without surgery, and changed it to fit your background and training, and gotten the result.
    (This sandwich of positive/negative will now move to the negative:)
    However, for general population folks, this is a possible injury creator of the first order when folks try to sit on their feet and follow this.
    In general population folks, the creation of injury is the number one reason that any form of exercise has to be dropped. This idea of Stark’s, to go to the first barrier to the stretch and change it with this technique, is a “First, do no harm” that will provide for improvement without any damage, especially if the hands option can be solved as in Mary’s solution in the video.
    (and back to the positive part of the sandwich of positive/negative)
    Congrats on your bunion “fix”! I hope that those who have your background of being able to do these moves without injury will take it up forthwith.

  21. Hi Linda,

    As someone who is only 22 and wakes up in fear of seeing my bunion growing bigger,
    I was just wondering if you had before and after pictures that you could share. I’ve started doing this once in the morning, and once before I go to bed in the hope I will change my genetically inherited bunions and strengthen the muscles in my feet.

    I was wondering how this stretch helps the arch and how it guides the metatarsal bone back to it’s correct position. Also do you know of any other techniques which would help this process further?

    Thankyou for posting the article and video – I realised that my bunions have come on while I’ve been doing the least amount of stretching. I used to stretch a lot for swimming and martial arts, but I do neither of those anymore and thus don’t stretch my legs out a lot.

  22. Hello, I found this information really interesting and it’s encouraging to read that there are exercises that could help bunions. From what I understand, this exercise provides a good stretch for the calves. I had a question: Is it safe to do the ”sarcomere slide” if one has over-pronated feet (in addition to the bunions)? I read recently that if a person has issues with over-pronation, stretching like that could end up hurting a tendon instead of targeting the correct muscles. One would have to get their foot in a neutral position (possibly stretching while wearing orthotics). In your opinion, could it be true, and could this foot-pronation stand in the way of getting the benefits from the sarcomere slide? Since over-pronation seems fairly common, thought it might be a good idea to ask. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge on this topic!

  23. When I try this exercise, I do not feel any tension in my calves. Will it still be effective in eliminating the pain and swelling?

  24. This exercise looks very interesting! My bunions are I guess a ‘mild’ stage, not bad but starting to hurt every so often and I’m only 19. Hopefully this helps. Will it realign the toe and get rid of the bump?

  25. does this exercise just get rid of the pain or does it reduce the size of the bunion too? by the way I’m 17 and surgery isn’t an option at the moment but I started the exercise and it already feels better. please answer

  26. I notice that now I start the exercise at much straighter position then when I begun a couple weeks ago. I guess I grew used to the stretching and feel the tension at a much steeper angle. So now it takes less time to complete the set.

  27. Does this work for long standing severe bunions ? Also, is one to relax one’s calf intentionally or does it just relax on its own ?

    Thank you


    1. Kali, the calf relaxes on its own, due to the sarcomere slide.
      As for long standing severe bunions, we don’t have an answer for that, yet.

  28. I have had bunions for about 33 years from wearing Ill fitting shoes. I tried this stretch today and as I leant back the tension went from my calves to my thighs is this correct. I can’t watch your video because your version of u tube is outdated. Is it possible to do send the video again. Does the book have pictures as I am not sure what I am doing.

    Thank you for your help this far.

  29. Will this exercise reduce the size of the bunion as well? I have had big painless bunions for many years. I would like some natural remedy to reduce the size of these ugly bony bumps. Thank you in advance!

  30. Is it normal if your foot is sore near the bunion a day after this exercise? It does feel like the position of the big toe has shifted a little bit and I’m assuming it won’t be a painless process for it to get completely fixed, but I just wanna be sure

  31. I have done it and it does help. I just don’t do it consistently enough I suppose. I do not have very big bunions and they do not hurt, but the one on my right foot bothers me more. They surely improve when I take the time to do the stretches. Also, my calves are not that tight, so I need a very thick book to make it work. Can it be done on steps?
    Lastly, I would love to find a rolfer in my area. I had it done over 20 years ago and it truly helped many postural imbalances I used to have. I think it’s time to do it again.

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