When you have bunions, finding shoes that look good and feel good can be a challenge.
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).
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.
This article was originally published on November 18, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.
VIONIC Waverly Loafer
"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." These loafers are designed with flexible materials and a rounded toe box. Additionally, VIONIC shoes are designed to cradle the foot in a way that takes pressure away from bunions, and may prevent them from getting worse.
Naturalizer Jaycie Platform Sandal
In terms of material, you can’t go wrong with soft, supple leather. (Luckily, 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 too much rubbing.
Kork-Ease Ava 2.0 Wedge Sandal
For anyone looking for a little bit of height, these wedges from Kork-Ease may be the answer. 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 foot and ankle specialist based in Washington, D.C.
Taos Footwear Virtue Mary Janes
"You really want to make sure that there is good arch support in the shoe," says Hillary Brenner, DPM, a New York podiatrist. These Mary Janes come with a removable insole to provide arch and metatarsal support. Plus, the rich leather upper allows flexibility in the forefoot to accommodate a bunion.
Everlane The Day Glove
"Flats can be just as bad as heels for bunions or any type of foot pain," says Dr. Brenner. It is important to buy shoes with enough support and a soft enough material so as not to exacerbate the bunion. These flats from Everlane are designed with a not-too-pointed toe box and soft cushioned insoles to help support the foot.
Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal
When in doubt, Birkenstocks. These classic sandals are made from soft leather, a cork footbed that molds to your foot, and a wide front. 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," says Dr. Osterman.
Dr. Sutera advises patients to "look at the shape of their foot and try to match it to the shape of the shoe." She recommends shoes with buckles and adjustable straps—they can be personalized to fit the shape of your feet, preventing any additional rubbing.
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. These flats from Trotters can be bought by size and width to help ensure a perfect fit.
UGG Kari Sandal
With a h footbed, EVA sole, 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 red leather in addition to classics like black and brown.