When you have a bunion, your foot never lets you forget about it. Wear a shoe that's slightly too tight or made of an unforgiving material, and the bony bump at the inside of the big toe joint becomes inflamed and painful. (If you're struggling with bunions, we recommend these products that can help ease symptoms.)
Although many blame their bunions on bad shoes, many times, bunions are actually inherited, says Hillary Brenner, DPM, a New York-based podiatrist. Still, shoes can certainly make pain a lot worse, and can make the bunion grow. People with bunions should avoid shoes that lack support, are made from stiff materials, and that have a narrow or pointed toe box. They should also generally stick to flats (sorry, stiletto lovers).
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That doesn't mean you need to resort to ugly orthopedic shoes just yet. We've gone to the experts and asked for their advice on what to look out for when buying shoes for bunions.
- Best Overall: Hoka One Clifton 8
- Best Slip-Ons: Naturalizer Women's Stephanie Sneaker
- Best Sandals: Naturalizer Patience Sandal
- Best Flats: Vionic Robyn Flat
- Best Wedges: Kork-Ease Ava 2.0 Wedge Sandal
- Best Adjustable Sandals: Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal
- Best Sandals With Soft Straps: Teva Tirra
- Best Dress Flats: Trotters Sizzle Signature Flat
- Best Platform: Ugg Kari Sandal
What to look for when shopping for shoes
Before diving into Health's top picks, what makes a shoe suitable for bunions? According to Nelya Lobkova, DPM, a podiatrist at Step Up Footcare in New York City, it's essential to get footwear that is properly fitted. As a result of poorly-fitted shoes, bunion pain may increase, which is why Dr. Lobkova recommends footwear with arch support. "It is shown that arch support contributes to metatarsal stability and minimizes pathological wear and tear of the big toe joint."
She adds that the shoe should also have a soft upper material so that footwear won't rub against the bunion joint and irritate the surrounding tissue. "Flexible upper material like goat leather or neoprene will conform to the contour of the foot instead of pressing up against the joint," explains Dr. Lobkova.
When it comes to sandals, she advises to pay close attention to the placement and material of the straps. Dr. Lobkova says that the straps should not rest on top of the bunion and to steer clear of sandals with rough straps to prevent irritation.
The best shoes for bunions
Based on these recommendations, Health curated a list of the best shoes for bunions that will meet your lifestyle and comfort needs.
These cushioned sneakers are Dr. Lobkova's pick for best overall. Not only are the shoes extremely comfortable thanks to the signature foam bed, but they're also constructed out of a flexible, breathable mesh that won't irritate your bunion. And to accommodate your bunions even further, the sneaker comes in wide size options. Customers note that they absorb shock and have arch support to keep you comfy for hours on your feet, which is one of the buying guidelines Dr. Lobkova mentioned. "They have good arch support. I stand for at least six hours a day and find them comfortable all day," said an Amazon shopper.
Best Slip-Ons: Naturalizer Women's Stephanie Sneaker
This everyday sneaker comes highly recommended by Dr. Lobkova for its wide options and cushioned insole, which provides ultimate comfort. "The front upper is a soft material (stretch knit) to accommodate bunions and the back is a supportive leather backing," she says. It also has a removable insole you can replace with custom orthotics. The shoe doesn't crush the toes (crucial for anyone with bunions), according to an Amazon customer: "The leather heel section provides a little more stability than woven fabric would and the woven fabric on the front of the shoe has enough give to make the front part of the shoe fit without pressure on the toes.
In terms of material, you can't go wrong with soft, supple leather—although vegan alternatives can work just as well. "One, they'll stretch a little bit and two, they'll also be a little more forgiving in terms of exerting pressure against the bunion," says Paul Langer, DPM, a Minneapolis-based podiatrist. These shoes from Naturalizer are designed with soft leather uppers and an adjustable hook-and-loop strap to prevent rubbing.Amazon shoppers rave about the sandal's non-irritating straps and support. "The leather uppers are SO SOFT. These are some of the [most] comfortable shoes I have ever worn. The sole has excellent support and absorbs shock. These would be great all day shoes," said one Amazon reviewer.
Best Flats: Vionic Robyn Flat
"You should avoid shoes that are narrow, that are tight, and that are pointy," warns Jackie Sutera, DPM, a New York City-based podiatrist. "Look for shoes that are a little bit more accommodating, soft, even adjustable." Well, these dreamy ballet flats hit the mark. They are designed with soft, flexible leather, perforations to encourage airflow, and a roomy, rounded toe box. Additionally, Vionic has a seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), so you know you'll be in good hands. "These shoes give my arches the necessary support, give my bunion a little room, and [there's] nothing irritating across the top of my foot to bother whatever that problem is. Win win win," one Vionic customer wrote.
For anyone looking for a little bit of height, these wedges from Kork-Ease may be the answer, according to Howard Osterman, DPM, who recommended them. Heels increase pressure on the forefoot, so a lower heel is generally better. "If you're going to go with something with more of a higher heel—that is greater than two and a half inches—look for something more like a platform," says Howard Osterman, DPM, a podiatrist based in Washington, D.C."So far I feel they're totally worth the price, based on the materials, classic look, and (most important to the inner 80-year-old in a 28-year-old body) amazing, comfortable foot bed and arch support," a Zappos shopper said.
Best Adjustable Sandals: Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal
Dr. Sutera advises patients to "look at the shape of their foot and try to match it to the shape of the shoe." On top of that, she recommends shoes with buckles and adjustable straps, since they can be personalized to fit the shape of your feet, preventing any additional rubbing. That said, when in doubt, Birkenstocks. These classic sandals are made from soft leather, feature adjustable straps with buckles, have a cork footbed that mimics the shape of your foot, and boast a wide front—checking all of Dr. Sutera's boxes. One shopper raved, "Choirs of angels sang when I put these on my feet. I have issues with a bunion that makes it difficult to find comfortable sandals. When I put these on, I felt as if I had found "my people." The adjustable strap is great for customizing the fit and the footbed is comfy. I bought these in dark brown (tobacco) and black."
If you suffer from bunions, "you need something that is either going to have a greater width of the forefoot or something with a softer material that isn't going to aggravate the joint," explains Dr. Osterman. These sandals have soft, cloth straps that won't rub against and irritate your bunion. Plus, the cushioned footbed and midsole provide arch support to minimize wear and tear on your big toe joint. Zappos shoppers rave about how these sandals don't irritate their bunions. "I have a bunion and it provides solid support without discomfort… The foot bed is perfect with proper arch support and solid construction," they wrote on Zappos.
Best Workwear Flats: Trotters Sizzle Signature Flat
Dress flats, or ballet flats, "usually have a kind of a rounded toe box and a little more of a wider vamp that allows the foot or the shoe to spread out a little bit," says Dr. Langer. On top of those characteristics, these flats from Trotters are also made of soft, flexible leather, and can be purchased by size and width to help ensure a perfect fit for your bunions. Reviewers with bunions were pleased with the comfort of these flats, with one shopper saying: "I ordered three pair[s] of these shoes because they are so comfortable and look so stylish on. They have a lot of cushion and are flexible. I usually order a wide [size] due to my bunions and had to order the WW width as they ran a little narrow. Love these shoes!"
With a plush footbed, EVA midsole, and wide toe box, these sandals from UGG (yes, the brand makes more than just their cult-favorite boots!) are a dream to walk in. We also love that they're available in a range of fun colors, including light pink and apple green, in addition to classics like black and white.Even shoppers are adding this shoe to their daily shoe rotation. "They are so comfortable! Have great arch support… They are better than I expected," a Zappos customer wrote.
Narrow shoes and shoes with pointed toes are a leading cause of bunion pain, and they should be avoided. Narrow, pointed shoes can force the toes together and aggravate or lead to the development of bunions. You should also avoid high heels. High heels are notorious for creating foot problems, including bunions.
Best lace-free: Skechers GOwalk Joy
Featuring a spacious toe box and made of breathable, airy material, these shoes are fit for any width feet and will be gentle on your bunions to help alleviate some of the pressure. They're also machine washable if you find yourself often getting your shoes dirty.
So while bunion-correcting shoes may relieve pain and pressure on your toe joint, they sadly won't fix the issue at hand. How Should I Manage My Bunion Pain? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can find relief from your bunions! The best thing you can do is wearing high-quality shoes with a wide-fit toe box.
- Wear wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole. In most cases, bunion pain is relieved by wearing wider shoes with adequate toe room and using other simple treatments to reduce pressure on the big toe.
- Try bunion pads. ...
- Hold an ice pack. ...
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen. ...
- Try to lose weight.
Features to look for in shoes for bunions
The shoe should have a wide enough front to comfortably fit all of your toes, and a soft sole to cushion each step. Buy shoes made from a stretchy material, such as leather or canvas.