All About Bunions: A Guide on How to Deal and What Shoes to Buy

It’s no secret that high heels and tight-fitting shoes can cause extreme discomfort and even lasting health issues. Bunions are one of the major risks we expose ourselves to when we consistently wear ill-fitting or uncomfortable footwear.

If you suffer from bunions, you’re not alone! Roughly 23 percent of people ages 18-65 are affected, including A-list celebs like Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, and Paris Hilton. Did you notice that all of these celebrities are well-known high-heel lovers and have made a living out of looking fab in sky-high stilettos?

Victoria Beckham's bunions protruding from the straps of her spiked white t-strap sandals at the Graduate Fashion Week Gala Show and Awards held at Battersea Park Events Arena in London, England, on June 6, 2007.Victoria Beckham’s bunions protruding from the straps of her spiked white t-strap sandals at the Graduate Fashion Week Gala Show and Awards held at Battersea Park Events Arena in London, England, on June 6, 2007.

Naomi Campbell looking down at her bunions and black velvet ankle-strap sandals at the "A Bronx Tale" opening night party at the Marriott Hotel in New York City on December 2, 2016.Naomi Campbell looking down at her bunions and black velvet ankle-strap sandals at the “A Bronx Tale” opening night party at the Marriott Hotel in New York City on December 2, 2016.

Paris Hilton in sparkly sandals showing her bunions on the 2006 World Music Awards red carpet in London, England, on November 15, 2006.Paris Hilton in sparkly sandals showing her bunions on the 2006 World Music Awards red carpet in
London, England, on November 15, 2006.

Bunions are one of the most common foot issues to arise in adult life, and unfortunately they occur most often for females. But don’t worry, there are ways to prevent and treat these painful and unsightly foot problems. Here are the facts you should know, regardless of whether you’re dealing with bunions currently or you want to prepare and prevent.

Oprah Winfrey with a painful-looking bunion showing through the straps of her Valentino "Rockstud" pumps at the World Premiere of "The Hundred Foot Journey" in New York City on August 5, 2014.Oprah Winfrey with a painful-looking bunion showing through the straps of her Valentino “Rockstud” pumps at the World Premiere of “The Hundred Foot Journey” in New York City on August 5, 2014.

What exactly is a bunion?

A bunion is an angular deformity that occurs when the bone located alongside the big toe — called the metatarsal — enlarges and grows outward. Generally, you know you are dealing with a bunion if your big toe has started shifting inward toward your other toes, and the joint of your big toe begins to form a bony bulge. This bulge will stick out of the foot, right at the base of the toe. This can cause pain and difficulty when wearing any kind of shoe.

A bunion can also occur on the other side of the foot, on the smallest toe at the joint. The proper term for this affliction is “bunionette.” However, the small bumps that appear on other toes are often simply callouses or corns, and tend to not cause as much discomfort as bunions.

Michelle Yeoh with very prominent bunions showing through her sparkly silver sandals at the premiere of "Volver" held during the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 19, 2006.Michelle Yeoh with very prominent bunions showing through her sparkly silver sandals at the premiere of “Volver” held during the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 19, 2006.

How do they form?

Even though genetics come into play for many bunion sufferers, these pesky foot bulges can occur due to weak posture or foot strength, or as a result of arthritis. Most commonly though, bunions form as a result of prolonged cramping in the toes from uncomfortable footwear.

That’s bad news for you ladies who love constricting straps, narrow toe boxes, and pointy toes on your shoes. If you wear heels or tight-fitting shoes for extended periods of time, your feet are at higher risk for bone deformity and painful bunion growths.

Iman with bunions showing through her black leather at the "Destination IMAN" Website Launch Party at Dream Downtown in New York City on September 7, 2012.Iman with bunions showing through her black leather at the “Destination IMAN” Website Launch Party at Dream Downtown in New York City on September 7, 2012.

What can you do about them?

If you notice one developing early, changing your shoes wouldn’t be a bad idea, but unfortunately these bone growths won’t be reversed by simply swapping your heels for some sneakers. Although bunions won’t go away on their own, here are five ways to decrease the pain associated with them.

1. Wear cushioned shoes or add special padding to them. Making your shoes as comfortable as you can goes a long way in not only easing some of the pain, but also in preventing bunions from worsening.

2. Don’t wear shoes that squeeze your toes — especially ones that squish the bunion. This means no more pointy pumps, low vamps or shoe with straps right at toe mounds.

3. Skip buying shoes that are made of materials that have no give or stretch at all, like PVC, PU leather, and patent leather.

4. If you just can’t give up your narrow footwear or patent shoes, we understand, but at least try to limit the amount of time you wear them. Check out this guide to see how how long you can safely wear kitten, medium, and high heels.

5. Buy shoes specifically in wide widths and with bigger toe boxes.

For many people, these lifestyle changes can help make living with bunions more manageable and prevent the condition from worsening. However, sometimes bunions can become so painful and invasive that they impede everyday activities. These bunions may require a surgical procedure to remove, but be sure to consult your podiatrist first to see if this surgery is the best action for you.

Tilda Swinton with a sore-looking bunion showing through her black t-strap sandals while outside the "Late Show With David Letterman" studios at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City on September 3, 2008.Tilda Swinton with a sore-looking bunion showing through her black t-strap sandals while outside the “Late Show With David Letterman” studios at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City on September 3, 2008.

Bunions are a huge health concern, especially for women, but they are preventable. When you begin to feel discomfort in the front of your toes from your footwear, maybe its time to take better care of your feet or treat yourself to a shoe shopping spree. We’ve rounded up some comfortable yet trendy styles from bunion-friendly brands for you that would make both your feet and your podiatrist proud!

Bunion-Friendly Shoes1. Arcopedico “L14” Flats made of bunion-friendly Lytech stretch material, $95 at Zappos
2. Born “Bima” Mules with leather uppers and cushioned footbeds, $115 at Zappos
3. Bernie Mev “Crisp” Sandals with stretchy woven straps and padded footbeds, $79.95 at Nordstrom at Zappos
4. Dansko “Marta” Mary-Jane Clogs with wide toe boxes, $75.96 to $135 at Amazon
5. Earthies “Essen” Ghillie Flats with comfort insoles, $104.99 to $149.95 at Amazon and Nordstrom

Amal Alamuddin-Clooney with her bunions pushing out the sides of her pink-and-purple pointy-toe pumps as she leaves her apartment in Notting Hill in London, England, on May 20, 2014.Amal Alamuddin-Clooney with her bunions pushing out the sides of her pink-and-purple pointy-toe pumps as she leaves her apartment in Notting Hill in London, England, on May 20, 2014.

Credit:Daniel Deme/Joseph Marzullo/Michael Carpenter/Patricia Schlein/Spirit Pictures/Z. Tomaszewski/WENN

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