Bunions are a pain. But after foot surgery, she’s conquering trails.

A painful, bony protrusion in her left foot was not about to keep Stephanie Klipple grounded. A successful podiatric procedure has her back in her favorite hiking shoes and climbing to new heights.
April 18, 2024
Stephanie Klipple out walking after minimally-invasive bunion surgery.
Step by step and stronger than before, successful minimally-invasive bunion surgery allows Stephanie Klipple to get back outside and enjoy her favorite activities, including walking and hiking. Photos by Todd Seip, UCHealth

Growing up, daily adventurous treks at her grandmother’s house overseas sparked Stephanie Klipple’s love for outdoor adventures.

“I was born and raised in Philippines, and during the summer we would go to visit my grandparent’s house,” said Klipple. “It was in a rural area of the country surrounded by rice paddy tiers and balconies. We would climb up and down all day long, sometimes for miles, carrying supplies back and forth.”

Now living in Colorado, Klipple’s physical and mental health self-care therapy includes weekly hikes on nearby trails and paths. She lists Seven Bridges Trail in North Cheyenne Canon and Pancake Rocks near Cripple Creek as her nearby favorites.

Stephanie Klipple at the Manitou Incline after minimally-invasive bunion surgery.
Stephanie Klipple conquers the 2,744 steps and 2,000+ feet of elevation on the Manitou Incline.

“I know pretty much all the trails,” said Klipple. “The Seven Bridges terrain can be challenging, but the scenery is so beautiful. The hike follows a creek in North Cheyenne Canon and along the way, you cross over seven wooden bridges. It is absolutely amazing.”

As Klipple continued to train and explore more difficult trails, she noticed discomfort and pain in her left foot.

“The pain from my bunion prevented me from hiking long distances. It was especially worse descending from long hikes,” she said.

A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe. It often causes the big toe to push against the adjacent toe, causing pain and discomfort. Bunionectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the bunion.

Over the last three years, Klipple’s pain continued to get worse and then started to affect her walking gait, leading to hip and lower back pain. Last year, she decided that the time was right to take a break from hiking and seek relief from Dr. Mark Maurer at UCHealth Foot and Ankle Clinic in Pueblo.

Dr. Mark Maurer
Dr. Mark Maurer, who is trained in minimally-invasive bunion surgery, understands the complexities of foot and ankle injuries. He is an avid runner and completed his first marathon in St. George, Utah in 2016.

“I chose Parkview because I know the hospital and the nurses who work with Dr. Maurer,” said Klipple. “He came highly recommended.”

Klipple’s surgery consisted of a left bunionectomy with metatarsal osteotomy and a left hallux proximal phalangeal osteotomy.

Maurer is trained in minimally-invasive bunion surgery done through small incisions with specialized instruments. A metatarsal osteotomy involves cutting and reshaping the bone in the middle of the foot to properly align it. This allows for the shifting of bones to fix the foot deformity.

In some cases of large bunions, a second procedure, the hallux phalangeal osteotomy, is needed. Maurer cut and, using a screw, realigned Klipple’s phalanx bone of the big toe. This was done to correct the angle of the big toe, which had become misaligned due to the bunion. This newer bunion correction technique has allowed Klipple to recover faster with less scaring and stiffness compared to traditional bunion surgery.

Stephanie Klipple weight trains ahead of an upcoming bodybuilding competition after minimally-invasive bunion surgery.
Stephanie Klipple weight trains ahead of an upcoming bodybuilding competition.

Klipple said the surgery went very well and her recovery went smoothly. Seven weeks after the surgery, she was back on the trail and going on easy hikes in Red Rock Canyon open space. She was also back to lifting weights and strength training at the gym.

“No pain,” said Klipple. “After so many years of constant agony, I feel like a whole new person. Uphill, downhill, stairs, slopes, no problem.”

She recently climbed the Manitou Incline and Mt. Muscoco in North Cheyenne Canon.

“I can now enjoy the sights and sounds of the wilderness. I can now look up instead of always looking down worrying about my foot.”

Klipple’s future goals include climbing more Colorado 14-ers, and she is also currently in muscle-building and endurance training for a bodybuilding competition next year.

“You don’t have to live with foot pain. I honestly waited too long,” said Klipple. “My quality of life has been restored thanks to Dr. Maurer and his team. I am enjoying all the activities I love because of them.”

The pain associated with bunions can vary in intensity depending on factors such as the size of the bunion, footwear choices, underlying joint health, and individual pain thresholds. Treatment options range from conservative measures such as wearing properly fitted shoes and using orthotic inserts to surgical intervention for more severe cases. It is essential for individuals experiencing bunion pain to consult with a health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

For more information on UChealth Foot and Ankle Clinic – Pueblo, visit their website.

About the author

Born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Seip graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Southern Colorado and later obtained a master’s degree in education from Walden University in Maryland. After graduation, he started his career in the media industry, working as a news reporter, director and program manager at KCSJ Radio/Pueblo Broadcasters Inc. He then moved into the arts sector, working at the Sangre De Cristo Arts and Conference Center in Pueblo.

His passion for education led him to pursue a career in teaching, spending 20 years in Pueblo School District 70 teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), music and computer science. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he served as the public information officer and assistant director for the Pueblo School District 70 Department of Student Services. Currently, he serves as a communications specialist for UCHealth Parkview Medical Center.

Seip is married to Kerry, a music and STEM teacher in Pueblo School District 70, and is the proud father of two adopted children, both currently attending universities in Colorado.