To find the best shoes for bunions, you need to take into account not only the nature of the bunion itself, but also those activities you participate in where a bunion could or will be a problem. If your activities are primarily confined to standing or walking for short distances, you may find a single type or style of shoe is all you need to consider. If you are a runner, a ballerina, a tennis player or involved some other active endeavor, you may find yourself having to purchase several types of footwear, a type for each major activity you engage in. Some types of shoes are easily found, while others may need to be specialized and can be more difficult to find, or in some cases, more expensive.
What is a Bunion and What Can Cause One to Form
Those who do not have a bunion will often mistake it as being nothing more than a blister, or something like a corn. A bunion, however, tends to be more permanent and occurs in a specific place on the foot. A blister or a corn, on the other hand, can form in any number of places. A bunion is a bony protuberance on the joint of the big toe. It occurs when the toe for whatever reason, angles in towards its adjacent toe. As the toe angles in, its joint tends to angle out. When this happens, shoes that should fit snugly and comfortably along the inside of the foot will not do so. A bunion is in the way and the shoe will place pressure on that bunion, causing discomfort and even pain.
There are several things that can cause bunions, the most common being shoes. If you wear tight fitting shoes, those shoes may force your toes together, and if it is the big toe in particular that is being pressed on, it will tend to angle in with the appearance of a bunion being a possible result.
Some people are more prone to having bunions than others. In some cases, a bunion can be the result of a genetic defect. There are those who would take offense at being told they have a genetic defect although most people have one or two minor ones. If those same people are informed that bunions sometimes run in the family however, it’s an explanation they are more apt to accept.
Stress and arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, can cause a bunion to form. This is especially true with those types of arthritis which can cause disfigurement in a joint, which is essentially what a bunion is. Bunions can also form on the outside of the little toe joint for the same reason they can occur on the big toe joint. The proper term for a little toe bunion is a bunionette, which sounds cute but is something that is rarely cute at all. When someone has a bunionette, they generally refer to it as a bunion. It is possible, therefore, to have two bunions on the same foot, although it is somewhat uncommon.
A Bunion is a Pain in the Joint
A bunion isn’t always a bothersome thing and treatment isn’t always required, nor is the need to look for special shoes. At other times, a bunion can be quite painful. The immediate area can be sore, red and swollen, and corns or calluses may form as the skin around the toe joint will tend to become thicker. The pain that comes with this condition can be a nuisance or it can make walking when wearing shoes, or even walking without shoes extremely painful, especially in those cases where a certain amount of flexibility is demanded of the big toe.
Much of the pain can be attributed to a condition very similar to that of bursitis. The pressure that is being placed on the joint can eventually cause the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that surrounds the joint, to become inflamed. This inflammation will sometimes cause the joint to become stiff.
Besides tight-fitting shoes, shoes with high heels are definitely not the best shoes for bunions. High heels are particularly bad in that they force the toes against the front of the shoe, even if the shoe is an open-toed shoe. If your toes become crowded for a good part of the day, you will be more susceptible to having a bunion.
A bunion can cause problems that would seem to be out of proportion to its size. It’s one thing if you’re not wearing good shoes and pressure is being placed on the big toe joint – called the metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint – but given the fact that this particular joint plays a major role in the foot’s functioning, it could cause a big problem. The MTP joint is located at a place in the foot where a number of ligaments, tendons, and bones converge. This joint helps a person to bear weight on the foot and distribute that weight appropriately over a range of activities. If a bunion becomes too much to bear and is not treated, it can cause a person to assume a more sedentary lifestyle since moving about is too painful. This, in turn, can negatively affect a person’s health, especially an older person.
Recommended Shoes for Bunions
These shoes are not always the most stylish shoes you’d every purchase. They usually need to be a bit wider than normal and may also tend to be a little boxy in appearance. The sole needs to be flexible, and above all, the toes need to have a little room to roam. Sandals are usually considered to be the best choice, although they are not always appropriate footwear for all activities and for all occasions. They are at least a good choice for something to wear around home if not to the office or on a tennis court.
Athletic shoes, including jogging shoes tend to be good choices if they leave room for the toes since the sides of these shoes are often flexible enough so they won’t place undue pressure on the bunion. A dress shoe may also be an acceptable choice if it is constructed of soft leather. You won’t have to wear sandals to work.
Insofar as work shoes or boots are concerned, while they are often constructed of stiff leather, they tend to be on the boxy or roomy side, which is good for the toes and often will accommodate a bunion. What you want to look for in a work shoe is one that is constructed such that it holds the heel in place and does not allow the foot to easily slide forward. A shoe of this type, which often has a high back, has what is called a heel counter, meaning the back of the shoe is configured to keep the heel and the back of the foot in place.
Gel pads or liners can also help. In some instances, applying moleskin around the bunion will keep it from becoming irritated although this is a practice that would normally have to be done daily. For some people, the use of a shoe stretcher may allow them to continue to use the shoes they already own. A stretcher will make a shoe bigger, but not noticeably so as far as appearance is concerned. An over-the-counter arch support may be all that you need to keep a bunion from bothering you. In some cases, it may be necessary to have semi-soft orthoses prescribed. These customized supports when placed in a shoe keep the foot in the proper position when it strikes the ground.
There are shoes on the market that are either specially made for those who have bunions, hammertoes, or similar foot disorders. There are also many types and styles of shoes that have been designed and manufactured with comfort in mind and will perform the same function.
Four Styles of Shoes Worth Considering if You Have a Bunion Problem
- Stretch Uppers – Look for a shoe whose uppers are constructed of a stretch material that forms nicely to the foot. One such shoe has a removable foot-bed to make room for an orthotic. A soft, flexible shoe such as this will often come in a style that is quite suitable for the workplace while being as comfortable as a slipper.
- Mary Jane Shoes -A lightweight Mary Jane style can be a good choice for women. A strap rather than a lace or solid upper and plenty of toe room is often ideal if you’re looking for a shoe that resembles a clog-type shoe but has a higher back.
- Clogs – Clogs are somewhat boxy but can be good looking as well. You’ll see clogs worn quite often in hospitals where the employees spend a good deal of time walking but also can spend a good part of the day standing on a hard surface. Most shoe stores, including stores that sell sporting equipment feature clogs. This is a style that is not meant for running or for walking over rough terrain, but is an excellent choice if you will be doing either a great deal of walking or standing on a relatively flat surface.
- Rocker Sole – A shoe that features a rocker sole is a shoe that not only makes walking more natural since the foot tends to rock forwards once it strikes the ground, the rocker sole takes pressure away from the front part of the foot and the toes. Most rocker-style shoes tend to be wide in the toe area without necessarily having a boxy look.
There are instances where you may need to wear customized shoes or shoes with prescribed orthoses, but unless your bunion is a particularly large one, the chances are good that you can find what you want by doing a little searching in a nearby shoe store or going online. Look for something along the line of one or more of the examples given above. Some brands to consider would be Dansko, Keen, and Ecco. There are, of course, the brand-name athletic shoes to consider, many of which have a certain amount of stretch on the sides and uppers.
Bunions are treatable and often curable, although in some instances, the only option is that of surgery. Having a surgical procedure performed may widen somewhat the choice of shoes you can wear, but you will most likely still need to be somewhat selective. While, as noted earlier, genetics can sometimes be to blame, people more often than not work at getting bunions, or at least wear shoes that tend to promote their development. If you don’t have a problem with bunions and make a habit of always wearing comfortable shoes, in all likelihood, you will never have one.