If you're one of the estimated quarter of adults who have a bunion, per the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, you know how pesky a problem this can be — especially when it comes to wearing shoes.
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Bunions, or those bony protrusions most often at the big-toe joint, can be more than just unsightly to look at, but they can also be quite painful and even debilitating for some people.
Fortunately, more and more manufacturers are hopping on the bandwagon of making bunion-friendly shoes that are supportive and comfortable — some that even help reduce the progression of the deformity.
Here, podiatrists Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, Emily Splichal, DPM, and Michael Pliskin, DPM, and Nelya Lobkova, DPM, share some of their top recommendations for shoes that won't aggravate your bunion and may even help it.
1. Best Overall: Allbirds Wool Runners
Ethically sourced using laces that come from recycled plastic bottles and insoles that come from castor bean oil, these shoes have gotten quite the reputation over the last few years — but not only for their resourcefulness. They're also incredibly comfortable, especially for people with bunions.
They have a simple, contoured design that allows the shoe to be flexible, supportive and made to last. You can walk around in these shoes all day long and not feel the irritation that most other shoes can cause.
Another perk that customers rave about is the fact that these shoes are incredibly lightweight — clocking in at just 7 ounces per shoe, which is significantly less than most other shoes.
2. Best on a Budget: Vionic Denver Slip On Sneaker
Dr. Sutera is a big fan of this brand, which offers arch support, cushioning and a deep-seated heel cup. "The three-zone technology that is embedded into their shoes is very foot-friendly," she says.
Vionic's Advanced Motion System (AMS) technology is designed by podiatrists and features a flexible, cushioned outsole and a lightweight, breathable insole that allows for all-day comfort. Whether you're going to the office or heading out for a fast-paced walk, these shoes won't only look stylish, but will also provide the long-term comfort and support your feet crave.
Buy it: Vionic.com (women’s sizes 5-12); Price: $65
3. Best for Walking: Kuru Atom
If you're someone who likes to go on walks, short or long, you're going to need a shoe that won't rub against your bunion. In addition to hugging your foot so there's minimal movement inside your shoe, Kuru shoes feature what the brand refers to as KURUCLOUD — a midsole that's as cushiony as it gets, with an energizing bounce to keep you going during long walks.
They're slightly wider than most shoes and lightweight so you don't feel pulled down during movement. They're also waterproof, which can come in handy should the weather not cooperate while you're out and about.
(Psst: Check out our other top picks in the walking shoes category.)
4. Best for Running: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 amps up comfort with ample cushioning, added arch support and a secure fit that keeps your foot snug without overcrowding your bunion. While this shoe is made for runners, anyone looking for comfort while in motion can stand to benefit from this shoe — especially those with flat feet.
This shoe features DNA LOFT, which is the softest cushioning out of all Brooks' running shoes, as well as GuideRails technology, which helps encourage your natural stride.
5. Best for Hiking: KEEN Targhee Hiking Shoe
Whether you're an avid hiker or someone who's looking to explore more of the outdoors, this waterproof hiking shoe will aid your adventures while ensuring your feet are comfortable and secure.
They feature a rubber outsole that has high-traction alongside a dual-density and compression-molded inside that gives your foot the security you need to handle all-terrain without the pressure that can often lead to pain.
The shoe has a torsional-stability ESS shank in the midsole that helps stabilize your foot as you move and a waterproof protective inner and outer layer that won't compromise support due to inclement weather.
6. Best Sandals: Oofos Ooriginal Sandal
If you're looking for sandals that will help alleviate the pain and general discomfort associated with your bunion, Dr. Lobkova recommends Oofos. Not only are they made extra wide to accommodate and stabilize the foot, but they feature a proprietary footbed design that helps take pressure off other targeted areas in your body, including your knees and ankles.
Perhaps the best part (for people with or without bunions), in addition to their 30-day money-back guarantee, is the fact that you can toss these sandals in the washing machine when they're extra dirty or just need a refresh.
7. Best for Flat Feet: Orthofeet
Having flat feet is an inherited condition and one that can actually lead to the formation of bunions, says Dr. Pliskin, chief of podiatry at North Shore University in the Northwell Health System. "A supportive shoe that holds up the arch and decreases the flattening of the medial column limiting pronation will reduce the progression of the deformity," he says.
A great pick for those who are flat-footed with bunions is Orthofeet, which are designed specifically for a wide range of pesky foot conditions, including flat feet, bunions, back pain, plantar fasciitis, neuropathy, Morton's neuroma and more.
In addition to their stretchable upper material, they have a wide toe box to accommodate large bunion growths. They also have arch support, which can provide significant comfort for those with flat feet.
8. Best for Support: Dr. Scholl’s Madison Slip-Ons
If you're looking for an everyday shoe that's equally stylish as it is supportive, consider Dr. Scholl's Madison Slip-Ons. As implied by its name, this shoe just slips right on, which can be quite convenient for people on-the-go.
The Insole Technology provides anatomical cushioning that supports the weight and protrusion of your bunion, and the flexible construction allows free movement without pressure.
If you're eco-minded, you'll be glad to know that this shoe is sustainably made and crafted with a unique microsuede that comes from recycled bottles.
Buy it: Amazon.com (women’s sizes 5-11); Price: $60
What to Look for in Shoes for Bunions
Because bunions are often associated with pain, the last thing you want is to purchase a shoe that makes that irritation worse. For this reason, it's important to read customer reviews to make sure that the pair you are buying only adds comfort instead of taking it away.
Podiatrist Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, foot and ankle specialist at LuxePodiatry in Jupiter, Florida, recommends looking for supportive shoes that help promote better foot mechanics.
"Make sure to have your feet measured and fitted so you get the appropriate sized shoe especially at the width."
She also suggests avoiding shoes with narrow toe boxes, as they can be less supportive than rounded shoes that are more accommodating.
If you suffer from a bunion or two, it's important to select a shoe that's wide enough to accommodate the extra room taken up by your bunion. For this reason, it is important to understand the width of footwear needed to fit your specific foot — bunion included. Dr. Lobkova suggests tracing the outside of the foot with a pencil on a sheet of paper to be able to visualize this better.
4. Soft Upper Material
"Soft upper material to any footwear will not rub on the bunion joint and thus diminish pain and irritation of the soft tissue surrounding the joint," notes Dr. Lobkova. She recommends seeking out a shoe made with materials like goat leather or neoprene that will conform to the contour of the foot instead of pressing up against the joint.
5. Minimal Heel
While you might initially think to avoid heels at all cost if you have a bunion, Dr. Lobkova actually recommends seeking out at least a 1-inch heel. "Totally flat footwear, including flat sneakers, is worse for bunions than a 1- to 1.5-inch heel or platform because lifting the heel slightly causes the rest of the foot to rotate in a more optimal biomechanical position that puts less pressure on the big toe joint," she says.