I have a bunion on my right foot. In the summer, I always become self-conscious about how my feet look in sandals and flip flops because of the protruding bump and the curved silhouette of my foot. But what bothers me most, which is a year-round problem, is how difficult it is to find closed shoes that fit and are comfortable to wear for hours on end.
Fortunately, with a little research and many purchases, I came across a world of shoes that are perfect for bunions, fit really well and are actually stylish!
But before we get to my shoe recommendations, I want to answer some important questions about bunions and shoes.
Ready? Let’s go.
Can shoes help correct bunions?
A bunion is a bone deformity and although true bunion correction or treatment cannot be achieved without surgically removing the bone, the condition can be controlled to minimize pain and discomfort, and allow you to continue being active physically.
Podiatrist Dr. Steven Gershman explains that although bunions cannot be corrected, “the speed of formation and severity of deformity can be affected and slowed. Preventing bunions is really not possible as soon as we wear shoes, especially those that are not designed properly.”
What shoes make bunions worse?
To answer this question, let’s first go over some of the main factors that can aggravate bunions.
- Flexible joints and ligaments, exacerbating the biomechanical flaws that caused the bunions to begin with, resulting in increased foot motion that in turn causes shifting of the bones and bunions.
- Certain foot conditions, including overpronation, arthritis and flat feet.
- Spending long hours on your feet.
- Applying any type of pressure on the bunions.
Now, it will be easier to understand why the following shoes and design features can make your bunions worse:
- High heels. High heel shoes transfer weight from the rearfoot to the forefoot and place extra stress on the already damaged joints, worsening the condition and leading to increased pain.
- Narrow forefoot. Dress shoes, ballet flats, high heels and pumps are usually designed with a narrow and pointed forefoot that has minimal space for the toes, squeezing them against each other and applying pressure on the bunions.
- Width. Most shoes found in stores only come in one width, usually medium, and are too narrow to accommodate bunions.
- Orthotics. When you wear shoes that aren’t designed with orthotics (or allow enough room to insert custom orthotics) that support the arch, don’t help control overpronation and the excess movement it causes, and don’t provide stability to the feet.
- Toe box. Shoes that aren’t designed with a wide, round and high toe box will apply pressure on the bunions by causing the toes to crowd together.
- Rigid materials. Shoes made from tight, unyielding materials cannot conform to the contours of your feet and therefore, you guessed it, put pressure on bunions.
Is walking barefoot good for bunions?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, because for some people, going barefoot can alleviate the pressure on the bunions and provide temporary relief.
No, because in most cases walking barefoot will amplify the underlying biomechanical defects that caused the bunions. In some cases, walking barefoot can actually make things worse because lack of stability in the foot is one of the main causes of bunions and if you don’t wear the right shoes, your feet will not get the support and stability they need.
Which shoes are good for bunions?
When you want to prevent your bunions from getting worse, there are a few key shoe design features you should look for. Let’s go over them, one by one.
Orthotic Insole. As we mentioned earlier, one major cause of bunions is excess motion or overpronation. The good news is that overpronation and the resulting excess motion it causes can be treated with orthotics in the shoes.
Most shoe brands only construct their shoes with a thin and flat footbed that does nothing to support the arch and align the body.
However, orthotic shoe brands design their shoes with orthotic insoles, so that the arch is positioned in the correct place, which is a little further back, supporting the feet and preventing them from rolling inwards.
Upper material. Shoes are made from many different materials. However, there are specific ones that are much better for bunions, because they stretch and flex around the disfigured bones and don’t put any extra pressure on them.
Stretch knit fabric, mesh and soft pliable leathers are the best options for feet with bunions.
Widths. The ‘one width fits all’ approach of most footwear brands can actually damage your feet and exacerbate your bunions.
On the other hand, specialty footwear brands understand there are many people out there that have wide feet or feet with different conditions that require the extra space. Their selection includes wide, extra wide and even extra extra wide choices.
Wide width shoes provide a relaxed and comfortable fit without squeezing or pressuring your bunions and toes.
Heel height. The lower the heel height, the better, and if the shoe is also ergonomically designed, the heel will not place any pressure on the forefoot and toes.
Toe box. Shoes with a toe box that is wide, round in shape and has a nice height to it are best if you have bunions, because they properly accommodate your feet without pinching or pressuring them. A good toe box will offer ample space for the bunions and support your feet’s biomechanical movement.
Interior. Since bunions may become inflamed and painful, it is important that any contact with them be gentle and non-irritating.
That’s why, the best shoes for bunions are ones that have a soft lining that is generously padded to offer maximum protection. If the lining is seam free, that is even better since it will ensure there are no threads to cause any further irritation. This is especially important to people with diabetes, neuropathy and sensitive feet.
Extra depth. Shoes that are good for bunions should be designed with extra depth along the length of the shoe - from the heel to the toes.
Extra depth gives more room for the bunion and the toes can move around freely. In addition, since feet with bunions usually require a custom or over-the-counter orthotic, the extra depth allows you to insert one comfortably.
It’s worth noting that you can stretch your shoes to accommodate your bunions, but I found it’s best to buy specialty shoes, because your bunions need more than just additional space.
The Best Sneakers for Bunions
There are two types of sneakers I highly recommend for women and men with bunions: women’s Coral and men’s Edgewater.
The two styles are ideal for bunions for the following reasons:
- They are made with super stretch materials in the upper that accommodate bunions by conforming to their exact shape. The bunion benefits from a pressure free environment, which prevents further deformation. As an added bonus, the stretch materials are highly breathable and will keep feet cool and dry, even when you are active.
- The unique last (shape of the mold of the shoe) upon which the shoe is built is wide all around, from the rearfoot all the way to the forefoot.
- The toe area is extraordinarily round, broad and tall, and gives the angulating bone on the big toe joint plenty of space to move around and not overlap adjacent toes.
- Both styles are available in extra wide widths and some colors are even offered in extra extra wide width, which is perfect for those with a combination of severe bunions and swollen and wide feet.
- To help prevent further damage and relieve pain, the premium orthotic insole keeps the feet in check, making sure that when they touch the ground they do not overpronate and don’t put pressure on the bunions. It also aligns the feet and body from the ground up.
Coral is available in black, gray, turquoise, silver, lavender, blue, white, wool gray and black with black sole, and looks great with whatever you wear.
Edgewater is available in black,gray and blue. The gray and blue styles have an added bonus feature of a rubber outsole that provides advanced grip, meaning you can tackle pretty much any surface with confidence.Shop Women’s Coral | Shop Men’s Edgewater
The Best Walking Shoes for Bunions
Cute and simple in style, the Palma shoes for women pack many features that will allow you to walk pain free, while leaving your feet refreshed even at the end of the day.
Thanks to the stretch knit uppers, the Palma shoes will fit your feet like a glove, without squeezing your bunions. The shoes literally move with you and their fabric stretches over any bumps to provide an unconstricted environment.
In addition to the stretchable uppers, the wider than average shape, extra depth design that runs from the rearfoot to the front, as well as the round and high toe box, reduce bunion aches and protect it from further injury.
The built-in anatomical orthotic insole helps realign the foot and position the big toe, so that it functions correctly when you move.
Thick foam padding built in the insole, special sole design and interior of the shoes further protect the sensitive bone from external shock forces.
Versatility is Palma’s uniqueness, allowing you to pair it with virtually any outfit and wear it year-round. Palma is available in staple black and light gray.
Men’s Avery Island
For those days when your feet and bunions just don’t get a break, the Avery Island men’s shoes will be your new best friend.
Avery Island is a sport casual style designed for the man on the go who wants superior cushioning and comfort. It has a full grain leather upper that is especially soft and pliable to fit a bunioned foot.
Thanks to the 5 widths it is available in – from narrow all the way up to extra extra wide (6E)! – Avery Island can accommodate a broad range of feet.
What makes the Avery Island stand out from most casual shoes is its expanded forefoot shape that provides the best relaxed fit for bunions or other misshapen bones. It also offers more room vertically, meaning the toe box is high and enhances comfort even more.
The decorative stitching on the outside is exactly as implied, only for style, and cannot be felt on the inside, thereby eliminating pressure points on the bunions. The interior is lined with a smooth and seam free fabric to provide the gentlest touch with the skin, as even the smallest thread can be a source of irritation.
And to complete the package, the advanced orthotic insole that helps your feet find relief from pain, is included in the shoes. The winning combination of anatomical arch support and shock absorbing cushioning soothes inflamed bunions and helps correct the improper gait it has caused.
Avery Island is a great style for every day and can be easily worn with a variety of outfits.
The Best Boots for Bunions
Ranger is a one-of-a-kind boot that keeps bunion pain at bay, and also has other great features that will make your life better.
The designers of this boot looked at how to improve functionality and came up with an innovative solution. The height of any boot makes it difficult to insert the foot inside and having to constantly tie laces is tedious. So, they designed a boot with two zippers at the heel that allow quick and easy on/off wear. This is a game-changer, since putting on and taking off these boots can be done in a snap!
In addition, the sole is constructed from special rubber and has a unique tread design that channels liquids away from the shoe, making it slip resistant and perfect for rain, snow and any slippery surface.
The wide and tall toe box is ideal for feet with forefoot issues such as bunions, hammertoes, and swollen feet. This ensures the toes have full freedom to move around and remain straight without gravitating towards others, which is essential for making sure the existing bunion doesn’t deteriorate.
The premium orthotic insole makes the Ranger boots super comfortable and supportive for even the most challenging activities, and they will keep your bunion in check. What’s more, thanks to the materials used in these boots, they are surprisingly lightweight, so you won’t even realize they are on your feet.
With winter upon us, it's only fitting to keep our feet cozy, warm and supported all day. However, boots sometimes pose a challenge as they can be difficult to get on or are uncomfortable and tight for bunions. Fortunately, Florence is nothing like that.
Available in the most popular colors, black and camel, the Florence boots work with any outfit - from leggings to jeans. They are designed with two hook and loop straps across the instep, allowing the boot to completely open up and the tongue to fall forward, so that you can pretty much step into them easily. This also allows you to achieve a secure and customized fit according to your foot shape.
Florence is available in two options, waterproof and water resistant.
The water resistant version is made with a suede upper that is super soft and pliable, and doesn’t put any further pressure on the bone. The inside is lined from top to bottom, including the insole, with thick synthetic fur to help keep your feet warm. It is available in camel and black.
The waterproof version is made with soft, treated leather upper, sealed seams and a gusseted tongue to keep your feet dry and warm. It also provides increased traction and grip thanks to the rubber sole and unique tread design, ideal for winter wet surfaces. This version is available in black.
And unlike most shearling boots, Florence are actually healthy for your feet, since they include full orthotic support and cushioning to help support your feet and relieve bunion pain.
The Best Slippers for Bunions
Slip into unrivaled comfort and support (yes, they are 100% supportive!) with the Louise and Hudson house shoes.
One thing is for sure, your bunion will love the 4-way stretch materials that conform to your exact foot shape and offer a relaxed fit. The upper material includes an airy design to promote airflow, making these slippers perfect for feet that are prone to sweat.
What’s different about these slippers is that they are designed with the same pain relief technology as regular orthotic shoes, so that you experience comfort, support, and protection while you wear them, whether in or outdoors. That’s right, outdoors. Both slippers even have a real outsole, just in case you forget to take them off when you leave the house.
Both Louise and Hudson include the Ortho-Cushion System, which consists of an orthotic insole and ergonomic sole to minimize overpronation, reduce heel pain, provide heel to toe cushioning and facilitate foot motion.
And of course, the generous forefoot design is perfect for any bunion.Shop Women’s Louise | Shop Men’s Hudson