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Gear and Technology

Stride in comfort: Finding the best shoes for bunions

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Bunions are a common foot condition characterized by a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe, causing pain and discomfort for many people. They are more common in women than men, and it’s estimated that one-third of adults over 65 have bunions. 

Bunions can be a range of different sizes and can affect everyone differently. Luckily, there are certain shoes for bunions that can alleviate symptoms and make walking and running a little more comfortable. They can also help prevent bunions from getting worse. Read on to learn more about bunions and how wearing the right shoes can make a difference.

Woman running on a city street wearing Glycerin GTS 21s

Bunions 101: Understanding the foot condition

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe, called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. They form when pressure on the big toe causes it to go out of alignment and point inwards towards the rest of the toes. The joint then sticks out, and the foot gets wider. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, and deformity of the foot. Long-term effects of bunions can include:

  • Nerve damage: Pressure on the joint can cause nerve damage and lead to numbness.
  • Skin changes: The skin on the sole of the foot can become thick and hard, and/or blisters may form due to increased friction and rubbing.
  • Deformities: Over time, bunions can lead to conditions like a hammer toe or a claw toe, which can cause corns and blisters to develop on other toes.
  • Chronic pain: The big toe joint can develop osteoarthritis and pain can lead to overcompensation, making you unsteady on your feet.

Common causes of bunions

Bunions are a condition that develops over time, which is why they are most common in older adults. That being said, they can start at any age, often caused by:

  • Genetics and family history: Predisposition to bunions is usually hereditary or could be related to a joint disease like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Foot structure: Flat feet and low arches and even a short Achilles tendon or short calf muscles can contribute to the development of bunions.
  • Foot stress and repetitive activities: Avid dancers and runners can develop bunions due to overuse and foot stress.
  • Prolonged pressure and improper footwear: For anyone already prone to bunions, wearing tight shoes or high heels can exacerbate the condition.
Image of woman walking in a pair of coral Ghost Maxs

How bunions influence footwear choices

Many shoe options, especially casual options like sandals, sneakers, and formal footwear like high feels and flats, lack support. Running shoes are often the best option for anyone dealing with bunions because their unique design can help support the feet and accommodate any bone deformities. If you’re looking for the best shoes for bunions, try to prioritize options with:

  • Stretchy materials: Reduces pressure on bunions through a decrease in friction and an increase in flexibility.
  • Good arch support: Facilitates normal foot flexion, preventing a shift in pressure to the toes. Make sure you know if you have high, medium, or low arches to get a better idea of the shoes that will be most comfortable for you.
  • Wider toe boxes: Prevents rubbing along the bunion, slowing bunion growth and subsequent foot deformity.
  • Cushioned insoles: Helps to absorb shock and provide comfort.

Some people are more prone to bunions than others, so they’ll need to be more intentional with their footwear choices. Since everyone’s foot structure is slightly different, trying out a few different options to find the right fit is a great way to decide what shoes work with your unique needs.

Brooks’ solutions for bunions

We design shoes to fit feet of all shapes and sizes, including those with bunions. If you’re looking for stretchy materials, good arch support, wide toe boxes and well-cushioned insoles, try a few of our most popular collections.

The Glycerin collection for men and women is equipped with our DNA LOFT technology, which is a cushioned midsole made up of EVA foam, rubber, and air. The Glycerin collection is also designed with a breathable compression mesh that accommodates the unique shape of your foot. Glycerin is a great choice for runners who want both comfort and support to prevent bunions from getting worse.

Our Ghost collection for men and women is another great option that comes with a wider toe box to accommodate bunions and provide enough support for comfort with every step. Also equipped with DNA LOFT technology, our Ghost line of shoes have the cushioning you need and the flexible mesh construction that can provide a snug—but not tight—fit for wider feet.

Two runners in an urban landscape wearing Ghost 15s and Glycerin 21s

Choosing the right shoes is essential for maintaining foot health and that is especially true for anyone with a foot condition like bunions.

Looking for the right shoes for bunions? Browse our top shoes for men and women or take our Shoe Finder quiz to find a pair that is comfortable for either running or walking.

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Runner wearing Glycerin 21s

Disclaimer: Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.