How to Shop for Shoes if You Have Bunions, According to a Podiatrist

Feet hurting? You might want to turn to your parents or grandparents for an answer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bunions can develop as a result of an inherited structural defect, stress on your foot or a medical condition such as arthritis. Smaller bunions (bunionettes) can develop on the joint of your little toe.

A bunion, notes the clinic, is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. The skin over the bunion might be red and sore.

Dr. Karen Langone, a podiatrist based in Southampton, N.Y., has some suggestions for those suffering from bunions, particularly when it comes to footwear choices. “We can hasten their development with improper shoe choices,” she said, advising patients to visit a shoe store where they can be serviced by experienced shoe fitters who can address their special needs.

According to Langone, women are more likely to suffer from bunions than men. “You tend to hear more about it with women because their shoe wear is more restrictive,” she said. “For men, it’s easier to find a comfortable, foot-friendly shoe that is considered stylish versus what most women would choose to wear.”

To help ease the discomfort associated with bunions, Langone offered key shoe shopping tips.

Pay Attention to Shoe Width

Make sure the widest part of the your foot corresponds to the widest part of the shoe so there is not rubbing or friction against the foot that can cause irritation.

Opt for Styles With Underfoot Support

Shoes should provide ample support underneath the bunion area, advised Dr. Langone. Here, some brands cheat and use the same sole and simply add a wider upper. Make sure both the sole and upper are done in a wider width so the foot is not hanging off the sole.

Soft Materials Are Your Best Friend

Look for suppler upper materials that will be gentle on sensitive bunion areas. “Look for a soft leather or suede and stay away from patent leather, which is going to be more harsh,” said Langone. “One of the things I tell my patients is, you don’t break in shoes.”

Timing is Everything

“When you put shoes on, either they fit or they don’t,” Langone warned. “And only buy shoes at the end of the day. Feet are swollen then and can expand. If it’s an athletic shoe, you want to shop at the end of day when you’ve already exercised.”

Consult an Expert

Dr. Langone often leaves shoe suggestions to credentialed pedorthists, specialists in using footwear — which includes shoes, shoe modifications, foot orthoses and other pedorthic devices — to solve problems related to the foot or lower limb. “Let someone fit you who really knows feet,” suggested Langone.

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