You’ve recently heard that bunions can be inherited. You're worried because your mother has them and she can no longer wear the shoes she used to. While shoes can certainly make bunions worse, a faulty foot structure is the most common reason for their development. And you're right that foot structure can be inherited as flat feet, low arches, high arches, or the tendency to pronate or roll your feet inward every time you walk or run. As a result of these problems the big toe moves too much, and it drifts over to the smaller toes creating the characteristic bump on the side of the foot. While having faulty foot structure is the most common cause of bunions, foot injuries, and neuromuscular problems can also trigger it.

Do Shoes Cause Bunions?

But what about shoes? Do they cause bunions as well? While shoes don’t cause bunions, the types of shoes you wear can make bunions worse.

5 Shoes You Should Avoid to Prevent Bunions From Getting Worse

Let’s talk about the shoes you should avoid if you’ve already noticed a bunion forming or if you have one of the foot types that makes you more prone to developing them.

  • Tight, narrow, or pointy shoes. These shoes squeeze your toes together and can be very uncomfortable.  They also put excessive pressure on the big toe joint, which can make your bunions worse.
  • High heels and stilettos. Sure, they may you look good, but they wreak havoc on your feet. The steep incline forces your body weight forward, jamming your toes into the front of the shoe and worsening bunions.
  • Flats – specifically, those without proper arch support. When your arches aren't supported, your feet are forced to bear the brunt of your body weight, leading to strain on the big toe joint and, you guessed it, bigger bunions.
  • Flip-flops. Yes, the must-have summer footwear. While flip-flops are fine for beach wear or hanging out at the pool, they were never intended for longer walks. The truly flat ones offer no support, causing your feet to work overtime to stay balanced. Over time, this can lead to misalignment of the big toe joint. And yes worsening bunions.
  • Overly flexible shoes. I have many patients who walk in the door with these squooshy, cushy shoes. I know they feel great, but they provide minimal support for your feet and again pave the way for bigger bunions.

How can you have stylish shoes and prevent bunions at the same time?

  • Get Your Feet Measured - before you shop for shoes, learn the proper length and width of your feet.  That way you’ll avoid shoes that are too tight.
  • Shop for Shoes With A Wider Toe Box
  • Minimize Your High Heel Wear - if you have to wear high heels to an event, bring lower heels to minimize the pressure on your toe joint.
  • Wear Shoes One Inch Or Lower - that will prevent your toes from jamming into your toe box.
  • Wear A Wedge Heel - if you like the height but want to avoid bunions, consider wearing a wedge heel which will lower the overall pressure on your toes and give you a boost simultaneously. Make sure the wedge you choose has some flexibility otherwise, you're inviting other problems like a sprained ankle.
  • Opt for Flip Flops with Arch Support - consider brands like Vionic or Oofos.
  • Don't Shop By Brand Alone -  brand name tennis shoes are designed for many purposes. Some are for runners, some for walkers, some for tennis or pickleball, and some for lounging. Avoid the lounging shoes as these tend to be the most flexible.
  • Learn to Test Your Shoes - testing your shoes will help you learn whether your shoes are supportive.

To learn more about what you can do to treat bunions, click here!

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.