It’s Saturday morning and you are on your way to your favorite instructor “Toning Tony”‘s killer body conditioning class. Famous for his squat series at the end of class you continue to endure this weekly punishment as you are committed to get the “glutes of your 20s” back.
You are in the middle of the squat series trying to keep up with Toning Tony’s cues when suddenly Toning Tony comes up to you and enthusiastically asks “do you feel the burn in your glutes”?
You take a moment and soon realize – no. No, you don’t feel “the burn”.
If fact you aren’t feeling much of anything happening in the glutes when squatting!
How is this possible?!
Perplexed that aren’t feeling anything in the glutes when doing squats you quickly kiss goodbye the glutes of your 20s.
But wait…..don’t give up just yet. I may have a solution for you.
Having taught fitness for the last 16 years, competed in fitness competitions and being a practicing Functional Podiatrist, I have a keen eye for the integrated function of the human foot with the glutes.
First off, did you know that women in general have a harder time engaging their glutes then men? So not fair!
If you are a woman reading this blog and continuously feel squats in your quads and not in your glutes – you are not alone!
I just need the ladies to pay special attention to the below information and soon you’ll be feeling “the burn” in your glutes.
Secondly, did you know that there is a direct relationship between the stability of the foot and the stability of the pelvis? We’ll go into this relationship much more in future blogs but for now just trust me on this association.
The impact of this foot / pelvis relationship means that if the foot is not stable – as in the case of flat feet and / or bunions! – the hip and pelvis unlock – making it difficult for the glutes to contract!
What I am about to describe is what I call a “Bunion Booty”
A Bunion Booty is a lazy butt. A Bunion Booty has difficulty engaging and building the strength to climb stairs without stressing the knees.
A Bunion Booty has difficulty stabilizing the SI joint during walking or running, causing pain when moving. And a Bunion Booty definitely likes to bunt its work to the hamstrings making them work harder than they need should be, and increasing the risk of hamstring strains.
Do you have a Bunion Booty? Take our quick quiz below!
- Do you notice a bunion or deviation of the big toe in one or both of your feet?
- Do you have flat feet or notice that your arches have fallen?
- Do your feet easily fatigue and / or you get arch pain after standing short periods?
- Do you have knee pain when doing squats or going up or down stairs?
- Have you been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis?
- Do you have SI joint pain or low back pain?
- Do you notice your glutes don’t have the shape of your younger years?
- Do you feel a sense of “laziness” in your glutes when walking, climbing, squatting?
If you answered yes to 4 or more of the above questions – you, my friend, may have a Bunion Booty!
So how exactly does a bunion make the glutes weak?
There is a deep connection between the muscles that stabilize the big toe (namely the abductor hallucis) and the deep muscles of the core.
If you look at the picture to the right take note of the abductor hallucis muscle running the length of the medial arch. This muscle not only acts as an important stabilizer of the medial arch but also helps maintain alignment of the big toe joint.
Now in the case of flat feet, weak feet or feet that have spent years in tight shoes, this muscle can weaken. As the abductor hallucis muscle starts to weaken a bunion begins to form.
As the bunion progresses the tendon of the abductor hallucis starts to shift into a position that makes the foot even weaker. It actually shifts from the side of the big toe to under the big toe! (We’ll discuss this in more detail in a future blog)
Essentially the bigger the bunion, the more the abductor hallucis tendon shifts and the weaker the foot. The weaker the foot, the weaker the glutes.
So what can be done?
This is where I turn to my go-to product for patients with bunions – the Bunion Bootie!
Introducing the Bunion Bootie. A smart but simple product that is sleek in design and extremely functional. The unique design of the Bunion Bootie allows you to wear it while walking, working out, barefoot or in shoes.
When you slide the Bunion Bootie over the big toe and around the back of the foot you can see an immediate re-alignment of the big toe (see picture to the right).
The abductor hallucis gets pulled into the position it needs to be in order to engage, activate and connect back to your glutes.
Please note that results may vary based on size and severity of the bunion, however one thing that is for certain is that by begin to place the big toe in a more proper alignment you are making the foot more stable.
A stable foot over time can lead to a more stable pelvis.
Want to take this one step further, I encourage all of my patients with bunions to learn how to consciously engage the muscles of their feet to further stabilize their pelvis.
Through an exercise called Short Foot you can learn to re-strengthen the foot and connect it back to the core. To learn more about Short Foot please see the video below.
You can learn more about my approach to patients with flat feet and bunions in my book Barefoot Strong, available on Amazon.
As you begin to integrate Bunion Bootie and foot strengthening into your routine I recommend gradually adjusting to both concepts. Start by using the Bunion Bootie for 30 minutes a day, at night. Begin to notice how you feel when walking around your home with the Bunion Bootie on. Increase your time in the Bunion Bootie and supplement it with Short Foot exercise.
To learn more about Bunion Bootie or to purchase this product please go to: www.bunionbootie.com
To learn more about integrating barefoot exercise to rebuild your foot / core connection please go to : www.barefootstrong.com
As always – stay barefoot strong!
Dr Emily Splichal, DPM , MS
2 Comments Add yours
Hi, I have a question on the short foot exercise. Since the movement of the foot is to press down the big toe which the foot intrinsic muscle will eventually activated, and the medial longitudinal arch will increase. What if the I’m having a high arch foot and bunion at the same time? Can i still perform this exercise? Besides, i do have another doubt on how the bunion is related to the gluts? No hard feelings yea, i’m just curious! 🙂
Hi Yunn. All the intrinsic muscles of the foot are designed to co-contract which means you really can’t isolate them out. Almost like our core. The core muscles are designed to co-contract creating stiffness and stability. As far as the glutes, they are important stabilizers of the foot. When the glutes are weak or the foot is weak it can influence the other structure. Bunions are associated with instability in the foot. If you read our blog articles on the first ray, we go over this topic in depth. Thank you – Dr Splichal