Bunions and bunionettes are misaligned bony protrusions of the toes, big and small respectively, caused by the swelling or inflammation of the bursa. The bursa are small, fluid-filled sacs found at the joints of the body where movement of tissues against each other would cause friction. When the bursa become swollen and inflamed, they lose the ability to reduce friction, causing pain and further joint damage.
Bunions are also known as hallux valgus, and the condition forces the toes sideways instead of allowing the foot to naturally align the toes toward the front of the foot. This misalignment of the toes causes big toe swelling and redness around the joint, toe soreness, thickening of the big toe skin, corns, calluses, blisters, persistent or intermittent pain, restricted big toe movement, making it difficult to find shoes that fit properly around the bunion. Many individuals with bunions are also unable to participate in certain athletic activities for long periods of time without suffering from pain, including tennis and running. The continued development of bunions can eventually cause hammertoe and require surgery to realign the toes.
Bunions are a fairly common issue, affecting an estimated 90% of women and 10% of men. There are steps you can take to find the right pair of shoes to help alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by bunions. If shoes are considered carefully, it is entirely possible to find stylish footwear that you love while still focusing on good foot health!
Shoes For People With Bunions
- Ultra stylish, great running shoe
- Ergonomically designed and very light
- Snug, sock-like fit that offers support and breathability
- The fit can be too tight, especially for people with bunions
- Some found their Nike Flyknit shoes to be fake on Amazon
- May be too casual; not a shoe for anything outside of exercise
If you’re looking for a gentle and supportive shoe that is extremely fashionable and desirable, then this is it! There are tons of great colors and styles to chose from, and the flyknit design is really unique. If you have an extremely bad bunion problem, it may not be the best option for you as these can fit a little too snug. These shoes are great for casual and athletic use, but anything outside of that would be inappropriate. Overall a great shoe that is light and supportive, but may not be the best for people with bunions.
- Flax seed pillows in insoles; very comfortable
- Slight wedge heel for a comfortable life; nothing too extreme
- Many great neutral and simple designs made of suede
- The pump styles is slightly dated
- Just one single strap on the ankle for support, leaving the rest of the foot expose
- May cause more injury to bunions due to the 1.5” wedge heel
Gentle Soul’s Moon Wedge Pump is great for those seeking a shoe that is both supportive and cushioned, but also designed neutrally in colors that can go with many different outfits. If you have bunions, these shoes may not be so great and can in fact worsen them, because they have a slight 1.5” heel. However, if you can’t get rid of your heels and still want a lift, these shoes can serve as a safer, more comfortable alternative.
- Made of quality full-grain leather in Deer Tan, Black, and Stone Gray
- Three quarter zip entry for breathability purposes and functionality
- A slight 0.5” platform, not too harsh for people with bunions
- The outsole doesn’t seem to be very slip resistant
- The tonal stitching in the front of the shoe may bother some as it can make it appear aged
- Not very waterproof; can be damaged in rain
These boots are very functional and fashionable. Can be used as true working boots for use during farm work, gardening, etc. and are great for the snow. However, one concern is that they are not very water resistant due to the leather material. Ultimately they are pretty comfortable and the 0.5 inch heel is not too harsh for people with bunions. The three quarter zipper is also great when you need to get some air in and cool your feet down or adjust your socks, etc.
- Wide variety of colors and shades to choose from; something for every person’s tastes
- Made of genuine imported leather
- Inspired by youth culture and street art and other hip influences
- The wedge may be a bit too steep at 1.5” for those who want just a simple pump
- The outer sole doesn’t have a very efficient grip factor, only a few grooves
- Only two thirds of customers said the shoe fits as expected
FLY London is everything a girl could want in a wedge pump: it’s trendy, inspired by youthful culture and the street art scene, and it comes in shades of colors that can pease just about everyone. However, there are some minor concerns about the fit; especially for people with bunions. About one third of the customers on Amazon said it did not fit as expected. So be cautious with that. And also, it doesn’t seem to have a good grip on the bottom of the shoe. Despite this, they would still make a great pump – just exercise caution as you’re walking about in style with your new shoes!
- Great for people with wider feet and heels
- Very Breathable mesh design
- Brand power; Skechers is world renown for having great, affordable shoes
- The synthetic fabric may not be as comfortable as the Go Walk 2 was
- No straps or laces, so may present a challenge in keeping the shoe on your foot
- The footbed and antimicrobial liner still causes bad odors in shoes
These Go Walk 3 shoes by Skechers has been described as the perfect walking shoe. They are everything a person needs in an excellent walking shoes: they’re light, breathable, and can accommodate many feet shapes with their wider design. You can never really go wrong with Skechers. They are known for being a reliable choice in shoes. However, some do report the previous version, the Go Walk 2 was more comfortable. For people with bunions, these shoes are great because they are a little wider, however, they may feel unsupported also because of the wide design and mesh material.
Alegria Women’s Paloma Flat
- Reasonably priced for the quality
- Fairly high rate of customers who said the Paloma Flat fits as expected (72%)
- Unique textured design on the leather; beautiful butterfly stamp on rubber outer sole
- Lack of texture or grip on the outsole
- The outsole is flat so it may make walking awkward
If you find yourself working long hours and needing to be on your feet, then this shoe is great for you. It fully encloses the toes while being open and airy so that your feet feel like they can breather. Because it is designed of leather and has a very unique, beautiful design, you would think the price would be much higher. However it’s very reasonably priced – as low as $42. What’s even more great is that it is lined with cushioned material inside and is wider so it can accommodate feet with bunions.
ASICS Women’s GEL-Venture 5 Running Shoe
- Reasonably priced
- GEL cushioning system for a comfortable fit
- High abrasion rubber to avoid shoe from deteriorating
- Too much gray/silver, not very stylish
- Specifically designed for running and athletic use; not appropriate for occasions outside of that
- Some reviewers have described the shoe as a bit too narrow; not the best for wide feet
Asics is a great running shoe. It’s light, comfortable for flat feet, and also amazing for people with bunions. However, some have complained that it is a bit too narrow and not suitable for someone with fat or wide feet. The shoes come in a variety of colors and designs, but the design may be too gray and bland for some. Although, there are bright pops of color to liven up the shoe. Overall, due to the comfort and reasonable price of the shoe, this pair of running shoes is recommended!
Vionic with Orthaheel Tide II Women’s Sandal
- Ergonomically designed; great for those with feet issues
- Arch supports your feet
- Have a great grip on the insole so feet do not slide
- The black material from the sole rubs off on heels while still wearing them in
- If you have flat feet, the arch will be uncomfortable
- The grip is just OK on the outsole, nothing super slip-resistant
Let your feet breathe with these comfortable, ergonomically designed flip flops! These sandals are specifically designed with those who have foot problems in mind. They have a great, supportive arch on the insole that fits most feet like a glove. However, if you do have flat feet these flip flops may not be the most comfortable option for you. Be on the lookout for the black material from the insole rubbing off on your feet or socks within the first few weeks of purchasing as this has been reported. At the end of the day, this is still a great flip flop to have due to its supportive nature and sleek design.
New Balance Women’s WX20v3 Minimus Cross-Training Shoe
- The cross trainer shoes have a heel to toe drop for a barefoot-feel experience
- Incredibly lightweight at just 5 ounces
- See-through, synthetic mesh material that allows sweat and odors to escape
- The design is not very modern; however they are still very functional
- Lack of arch support in these shoes, a bit flat inside
- Because the shoes are so breathable, water may get into your shoes
If you like working out hard and squeezing intense workouts into your days, then this shoe is the perfect match for you. The synthetic mesh material the shoe is made of acts as a shell enclosing your feet and offering support, while allowing odors and moisture to escape. The are also designed at an angle that mimics walking around barefoot – just more comfortable! Many describe them as being a minimalist Cross-training shoe due to the flat insole inside the shoe, but this may be a con if you use your own custom shoe inserts. The breathability of the shoes is definitely a plus, but because they are so “holy”, water can leak into your shoes and make your feet and socks soggy.
Rockport Cobb Hill Women’s Parker CH Flat
- These flats come in a variety of colors that are neutral for everyday use
- Versatile shoes that can be used formally, informally, etc.
- Reasonably low price range ($40-$100)
- The leather stitched design may be a bit dated
- The arch support may not be suitable for your feet
- Some report that the sole has fallen apart within a few months
The Rockport Cobb Hill Women’s Parker CH Flat is a great option for the mature woman who wants to wear a sophisticated pair of shoes for any occasion. Not only is the design very versatile, but the colors are available in natural, earthy colors that are suitable for most any occasion. The design may be found to be a bit too old for some of the younger gals out there, and the arch may not accommodate your feet if you have flat feet. However, the breathability and the wider toe area that accommodates people with bunions makes up for this – not to mention the reasonable price.
Can ill-fitting shoes contribute to the formation of bunions?
The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organization connecting medical experts and the public, explains that bunions are caused by your body weight being unevenly distributed on the joints and tendons of your feet. This uneven distribution of body weight on the feet, including the joint of the big toe, makes it unstable and causes it to buckle and shift outward, moving the toes inward.
Experts disagree on the exact cause of bunions. As the specialists from Columbia University explain, though narrow or ill-fitting shoes may be the cause for the formation of bunions for some people, others develop bunions even after having worn sensible shoes their entire lives.
Research also suggests that bunions can be due to genetics (inheriting a foot type prone to bunion formation), foot injuries, congenital deformities of the foot, and certain inflammatory types of arthritis. Overweight individuals and individuals working in jobs that require prolonged standing are also at increased risk for bunions.
How do you pick shoes that are right for bunions?
Tips for finding shoes that will help to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by bunions are very similar to strategies to use in order to avoid the formation or growth of current bunions. You should focus on toe box, foot measurements, shoe material, and shoe shape. These construction aspects of shoes determine if they will provide adequate support and protection for your feet, and shoes that meet these expectations can be found in a variety of styles to suit every preference.
Think about the toe box.
Make sure to purchase shoes that have a toe box, or space for your toes, that is big enough but not too big for your feet. Generally individuals with bunions are most comfortable with a wide, deep toe box.
Robyn Hughes, ND explains that toe boxes that are too narrow and not shaped like the average foot can lead to blisters, corns, calluses, crooked toes, runner’s knee, shin splints, sesamoiditis (pain due to fracture of the toe bones), fungal / ingrown toenails, hammertoes, foot / leg tendon issues, plantar fasciosis (pain and swelling of the underfoot tissue that connects your heels to your toes) in addition to bunions and bunionettes.
Hughes and other experts recommend that people look for toe boxes that are shaped like your foot, allow your toes to move within the shoe without rubbing against the sides of the shoe when you walk (which could cause blisters or bunion irritation), and allow your foot to bend naturally.
Make sure to measure!
It’s a good idea for everyone to have a shoe-fitting expert or sales representative measure their feet before purchasing shoes to ensure that the proper size and width of shoe can be the shopping focus. Individuals with bunions should measure their feet each time you begin to shop for shoes because the shape and size of bunions can change over time. It’s also important to go shoe shopping at the end of the day because the feet swell naturally as the day progresses and true fit should be based on your foot size in the afternoon or evening. Finding a shoe that fits properly is a crucial step in preventing further development of bunions and relieving some of the pain caused by existing bunions.
Opting for shoes that are constructed with a fabric that stretches in the toe box or across the width of the foot can alleviate bunion pain and discomfort and allow the shoe to maintain appropriate fit as the feet swell throughout the day. Mesh and canvas shoes generally have more flexibility, but you should also make sure that the flexibility doesn’t mean a sacrifice in support. Arch support and good shoe construction are still crucial, regardless of the material used to make the shoe.
Look for a natural shoe shape.
The best shoes for all people, but especially those looking to relieve bunion pain, are shoes that reflect the natural shape of the foot. Pointed shoes or shoes with excessively high heels will not only cause you to experience bunion-related pain throughout the day, but may also lead to the growth or further development of bunions. Opting for shoes that close with laces or buckles also provides you with some extra control over the shape and tightness of your shoe. These closure options provide the freedom to adjust throughout the day as needed, as bunion pain may increase through activity, or as natural foot swelling increases.
In addition to focusing on the construction elements of the shoe to alleviate bunion pain, there are several other options to provide stability and comfort in shoes and to improve joint alignment in toes, including bunion splints, toe spacers, bunion pads, insoles, and making sure to strengthen and stretch the muscles / tendons of the feet.
Bunion splints are non-invasive devices aimed at re-aligning the big toe while you sleep. These devices can be purchased from most local pharmacies. While the devices vary in construction and material used – some are more rigid than others – they are all designed for the same purpose with your main decision being which one is most comfortable for you to wear when sleeping. Some splints are constructed to pull the big toe outward while others are designed to push it outward; the splint is anchored to the foot by a band around the forefoot or under the toes. Bunion splints can slow or stop the progression of bunions, but they will not generally reverse the development of existing bunions.
Available at most stores, toe spacers are pads generally made of silicone or gel which function to separate the big toe from the second toe, providing some relief from pain and discomfort and preventing the further progression of existing bunions by re-aligning the toe joints.
Most effective for mild to moderate bunions, bunion pads are small inserts designed to act as a protective barrier between the bunion and the shoe. The main purpose of these pads is to prevent redness, swelling of the big toe joint, blisters, calluses, pain, and discomfort caused by the bunion rubbing against footwear during the day. These pads generally serve as pain relief devices as opposed to corrective devices for existing bunions or preventative measures against developing bunions.
Because being flat-footed and having a history of wearing shoes without adequate fit and support are risk factors in the development of bunions, arch support can prevent the worsening of existing bunions, decrease the likelihood of developing bunions if one is prone to them, and alleviate pain and discomfort associated with misalignment of the foot and toes. Only individuals lacking natural arch stability should acquire additional arch support in the form of insoles or orthotics, however, because using additional arch support when it is not needed can cause your foot to be forced into an unnatural shape and arch. This can cause arch problems and foot instability where issues did not exist, so assessing your needs and speaking with a medical professional may be wise before investing in arch support.
Stretching and Strengthening
Richard Braver, D.P.M recommends that people with bunions do toe pulls to stretch and strengthen toe muscles and tendons. Big-toe pulls are done by placing one rubber band around both big toes, pulling the big toes away from each other, holding for five seconds, and then relaxing. Toe pulls are done by placing a rubber band around all small toes and spreading the toes apart, holding for five seconds, then relaxing. Toe pulls should be done 10 times per day.
Other experts also support stretching as a way to strengthen the foot and toes. Stretching the Achilles tendon has been shown to counter stress and tension in the forefoot while calf stretches can benefit the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Calf stretches can be done by raising yourself up on your tip-toes, holding for 5-10 seconds, and slowly lowering yourself down until your feet are planted firmly on the ground again. The same exercise can be done with the heels hanging slightly off an incline – such as a phone book or stair – to reap the benefits of Achilles tendon and calf stretching.
Experts including William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP endorse calf-plantar fascia stretches for foot and ankle strengthening as well. The currently recommended procedure for calf-plantar fascia stretches is to sit with your legs extended and knees straight. You should then loop a towel around one leg (at a time) with the towel positioned around the feet just under the toes. With your hands above your knees, you should hold each end of the towel and pull back so that your foot is stretched backwards towards you. Hold this position for at least 15 – 30 seconds, without bouncing or pulsing while pulling the towel, and repeat the exercise 2 – 4 times a day, no more than 5 times per day.
For people who have tried exercise techniques and changing any habits / footwear that may cause or exacerbate bunions, surgery may be the only option for pain relief and for restoring proper foot alignment.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends seeking the advice of a medical professional before determining if surgery is the solution that is right for them. The Academy recommends invasive surgery for bunions if an individual:
– is experiencing pain and discomfort to a level that interferes with daily activities
– is experiencing inflammation and big toe joint swelling that is resistant to rest and/or medication
– is experiencing continued toe deformation with the toes moving towards crossing over each other
– is unable to find relief from wearing properly fitting shoes and is unable to find relief from pain through over-the-counter medication
There are several surgical strategies that can be used to correct bunions and offer some relief from pain and discomfort including: osteotomy, arthrodesis, exostectomy, and resection arthroplasty. An osteotomy involves making cuts into the toe bone to re-align it, and then securing the positioning with screws or plates. Arthrodesis, a procedure used for people experiencing arthritis in their big toe joint, involves removing the joint surfaces completely and inserting screws or pins to maintain function in the toe joint. Exostectomies do not re-align the toe joint and involve removing the bump alone. These procedures are not generally considered long-term solutions to bunions when used by themselves. Resection arthroplasty requires the medical professional to completely remove the part of the toe joint which has been damaged, creating a space between the toe bones and a flexible surgical joint. This procedure is only used for elderly patients, people with arthritis that are not able to have arthrodesis, or people who have had bunion surgery before that did not alleviate their symptoms and pain. This surgery can actually change the function and strength of the toe that was operated on, potentially altering gait, so it is seldom recommended.
The Academy stresses the importance of exhausting all non-invasive procedures before approaching your medical professional to seek surgery. The experts also remind individuals that unless bunion cause has been identified and, if possible, corrected, bunions are likely to form again and require further treatment.
Though living with bunions is a painful problem that is far too common in the developed world, you can alleviate the pain and discomfort that comes from this joint misalignment by selecting shoes that fit and are constructed to promote foot health, using devices such as toe spaces, bunion splints / pads, and insoles, and regularly engaging in foot stretching and strengthening exercises. It is certainly possible to beat the pain of bunions, and living life in good footwear is one of the most important steps.