How to Choose Shoes That Won’t Make Your Bunions Mad (Even High Heels)!

For centuries people have been wearing shoes for comfort and protection – and quite often they’ve been not so comfortable. High heels, we’re talking about you!  

Women have willingly traded pain for glamour by choosing to wear high heels. The glamour: You become taller and your legs look longer and more graceful. The pain: You are 10 times more likely than a man to suffer problems caused by bunions. 

The technical term for a bunion is “hallux valgus”

Bunions and Shoes, University Foot and Ankle InstituteIt’s a bony protuberance on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. Sometimes the big toe moves sideways and pushes against the next toe causing hammertoes. When a bump forms at the base of the little toe it’s called a Tailor’s bunion. Bunions are often hereditary; if you’re parents had them, you’re more likely to get them too. Thanks Mom!

Also bunions can be related to low arches, flat feet, arthritis or inflammatory joint diseases. 

About a third of all American women suffer from bunions, and it can be a struggle (and a real pain) to find well-fitting shoes. When you have a bunion deformity, it becomes difficult to wear shoes that cause friction against the prominent bump on the side of your foot. Ideally, you want to look for a firm sole for support with ample room in the toe box.  

What to look for in a “good bunion shoe?”

Shoes that qualify as appropriate for bunions have some important features in common. They have a wider than normal width to allow the foot to stretch out. They feature a soft and wide toe box to wrap around the bunion without causing irritation and inflammation. Finally, they have a contoured sole and a supportive arch to provide stability. 

Here are a few of my favorite (and my patients) shoes for Bunion sufferers.

Bunion Shoes, University Foot and Ankle Institute

New Balance 870, a great shoe for all day comfort.

One of my most recommended shoes for all-day comfort are made by New Balance. Their models 870, 990, 1050 and 1080 are terrific. You can choose 4 widths for women’s shoes and 5 widths for men’s which is tremendously helpful.

Another type of shoe to consider when you have bunions are sandals, but you need ones that provide excellent support for the foot and cover the protuberance with soft leather or stretchy fabric. Remember, you don’t want stiff materials and seams rubbing against the bunion. 

I like Birkenstocks (which are a lot nicer looking these days than they used to be) and Fitflops. They both offer closed toe shoes, strappy sandals and sneakers with ample room in the forefoot to allow for the bunion without the constant irritation. Fitflop has two new shoe styles out for spring that warrant a look; the Uberknit ballet flat and high-top sneaker. Both have supportive soles and breathable stretch uppers.

How about a high heel for special occasions?

Many women with bunions “need” a dressier shoe for work or special occasions. I had my team research high heels for bunions and surprisingly I have some results from their search.

High Heels for Bunion Sufferers, Julie Lopez Shoes

The “Emma” by Julie Lopez Shoes

One company in the US that specializes in heels for bunions is Julie Lopez Shoes. Ms. Lopez, a former orthopedic nurse and bunion sufferer, couldn’t find a comfortable high heel to wear to her daughter’s wedding and decided to design her own shoes. She traveled to Italy to work with quality craftsmen and together they designed her collection that features All Day Fit.

You can also check out two shoe resources in England that specialize in heels for bunions. They are Calla Shoes and Sole Bliss. They also have their own “bunion technology” along with many positive reviews.

Please remember that a big contributor to women seeking pain relief from bunions are from wearing high heels. The abnormal forward tilting motion, the shift of weight to one small spot on the ball of the foot, together with constrictive pressure, is a recipe for foot disaster. So tread lightly and try to avoid high heels. 

If you suffer from bunions and especially if they are are painful you should see a foot specialist to have them take a closer look. 

UFAI is here to help with your foot and ankle problems. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialist offer the most advanced care along with the highest success rates in the nation. UFAI’s physicians are leaders in the field of research and treatment of bunions and all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

Latest posts by Dr. Avanti Redkar, DPM

2 comments

  1. Such an interesting article – always good to see new info on all things bunions!

  2. Thank you for such a great resource. The “heels” recommendations are fantastic! For years I’ve been looking for suggestions but only found seriously ugly shoes. The sites you’ve posted have fab shoes. Game Changer! Thanks.

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