Will Bunion Removal Help or Hurt My Dancing?

June 19, 2017

I took up Latin ballroom over a year ago, and my coach/partner wants me to compete in the Olympics of ballroom dancing—
in England in May 2018! My problem is that my bunions cause discomfort while dancing for long hours in 3-inch heels. Should I consider surgery to remove them? I don’t want to jeopardize a critical point in my career.

—Michelle, Silver Spring, MD

Bunion-removal surgery isn’t a good idea for any professional-level dancer who performs on demi-pointe, even in high heels. Not only can it take four months to recover, but it doesn’t always work, and you could end up in worse shape than before the surgery. It’s also common to lose motion in the big-toe joint, which would permanently limit the height of your relevé. Instead, try relieving bunion pain by taping a spacer between your first and second toes (to keep the big toe aligned) and wearing wider shoes. Unless performing is out of the question at this point, save the surgery until after you retire from dancing.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at [email protected].