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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Buying running shoes for bunions

*Note: this post was updated here - click to read some newer thoughts and suggestions!*

Confession: I have revolting, ugly, weird feet. They are not even shaped like feet. I have long feet, high arches with a bony bump on top, with a super wide forefoot including bunions. There are bunions on either side, and the weirdest part is that the outer bunions (known as bunionettes) are lower down compared to the inner bunion. This is because clearly my pinky toe is evolving out.
Please note that my pinky toes appear to be affecting an escape.

So buying running shoes is a huge, huge challenge. It's hard enough to run with bunions, let alone find a shoe that fits! By now, though, I think I've got it. Here are my tips:
1. Find styles with wide toe boxes. Obviously. I find that Saucony and Brooks tend to have wider toe boxes, but New Balance has veered toward the narrow last unfortunately.
Notice how these Adidas are barely wider at the toe versus the heel - not good.

2. Choose shoes with mesh uppers and avoid support fabric along the bunion area. Really, you should avoid any overlay on the toe box, since you need the toe box to be able to completely mold itself to your weird foot. Here are a few good examples of shoes that do not have restrictive plastic or fabric near the bunion.
Saucony Kinvaras - Mesh overlay with minimal fabric support (and none over the bunion area)
Karhu flats with mesh toe

Saucony Triumph (men's) with some plastic and fabric support, but a lot of flexibility in the bunion area

Karhu Fast Ride with a perfectly mesh upper and just a small clear plastic strip around the toe for support.
And here are some examples of what not to wear.
Nike Lunar Eclipse with absolutely no flexibility near the bunion
Brooks Switch - although wide, there's plastic all around the toe box.

These Karhu's failed me: although the top is entirely mesh, the sides of the toe box have a support strip that doesn't let the mesh conform to the shape of my bunion.
3. Ladies, consider buying men's styles. They tend to have wider toe boxes. Of course you can also try wide sizes, but wides tend to have a lot of variability in size and structure, so try them on first. A men's shoe will have a larger toe proportionately.
4. Go up a half size and get longer laces. When you select a flexible mesh upper, you are allowing the shoe to conform a little to your foot. You might be able to go up a half size, then lace your shoes to allow for bunion room. In the example below, you can see I've left lots of slack in the laces near the toe, but pulled them tighter closer to the ankle. I find that with every run the shoes feels funny when I start, but molds to my foot as I run.
Loose at the toe, tight at the ankle

5. Go for depth. Take a look at the depth of the shoe from arch to sole. A deeper shoe, again, allows for more wiggle room.
Trail shoes (this one by Asic) are often deeper to accommodate bulkier socks.
6. Think about cushioning.A softer sole will let your bunion sink down without putting all the stress of landing on one joint (bunions cause the big toe joint to hit the ground before the rest of the forefoot). Therefore, you'll do better with foam cushioning compared to grid, wave, or gel. Just something to think about, of course. Not a hard and fast rule.
7. Consider a minimalist style. Shoes with large heel to toe differential guide you to a heel strike. When you heel strike, you firmly "heel-toe", so you push off hard with your toe. The problem is that if you have bunions, you will almost certainly push off with your metatarsophalangeal (MTP joint - where your big toe joins your foot) since it extends beneath the foot in its enlarged state. This will hurt and worsen your bunions. The Chi running style suggests landing midfoot and basically lifting your whole foot, rather than a push-off. I find this to be protective to the bunion area. A shoe with close to zero drop (Newtons, or many minimal styles) encourage this stride. But don't mess with your stride lightly. You can injure yourself in no time.
Newtons have a heel that is only slightly raised over the toe.
8. Buy skinny socks. This isn't a shoe tip, it's more like an "I give up tip". Still, slim fit, no terry socks just give you a few more millimeters width for your bunions.
9. Lastly, a shoe to avoid: Nike and Adidas both make shoes with "bunion windows" - little patches of telescoping rubber over the bunion area that are supposed to stretch out over the bunion. The problem is, they also shrink back as you move your foot - and the plastic can pinch. I bought a pair like this and I got blood blisters from them. Also they assume your bunion is in one exact place, and they don't consider bunionettes.
Vomeros with weird bunion thing

26 comments:

  1. Great post. I am a bunion survivor as well. So far the Mizunos have worked well for me, but surgery might be in my future according to my doc. Sucks. But you give some great tips I had not thought about before!

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  2. It's interesting to see how running has impacted the feet of different runners. I SWEAR that my crooked second toes are the result of how I balance myself when I am running!
    This was a great, informative post!

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  3. Such a helpful post, thanks! I'm in the market for new running shoes. I've been increasing my distance and having to mud my foot after every run, my bunion is killing me! So thank you! Pam

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  4. I stick with Asics and wear my Bunion Bootie underneath. I do buy 1 1/5 sizes too big b/c I run in the hot desert summer in Vegas and my feet swell. I think that helps the rubbing of the bunion also but the Bootie protects it also. Anyone running with bunions should add Bunion Booties to their running attire. :)

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  5. I don't know what bunion booties are, but I will try anything. I can't figure out what works with my bunions. I really believe that Newtons gave me bunions to begin with. Sorry , Newtons.

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  6. This was entertaining and helpful, thank you. In the middle of a search for some running relief.

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  7. Thanks for this post and all the replies, it is very helpful. I have a very painful bunion and bunionette on my right foot so knowing what others have tried and recommend for runners is awesome! Thanks again, Sue

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  8. This is wonderful information. Thank you so much.. Im leaning towards the Saucony Knivara.. Is this the same as the one you have mentioned here in your post -"Saucony Men's Progrid Kinvara 3 Running Shoe"

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  9. Funny, had bunion tenderness only, then ran 3 weeks on Newtons and now am practically hobbling. Loved the idea of these shoes, but am parking them in the closet. Thanks for these tips for the next pair.

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  10. From previous comments, it shows that everyone's foot is unique. What works great for some, doesn't for others. I loved the bunion window of the Nike Vomero 5. Unfortunately they removed it on the 6. Almost to the end of my stockpiled vomero 5's. Searching..........

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  11. Awesome, altho some of these things I'm already accustomed to reading about. Had a left bunionectomy 4 yrs ago and the most liberating feeling. Right foot gets done next month so that I can FINALLY Have a good running year. :)

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  12. Great blog! Altho some of this I already knew but great as a refresher. Had a left bunionectomy 4yrs ago and was so liberating. Getting the RIGHT foot done next month - so that I can finally have a great running year :) FINALLY. :)

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  13. Very informative post! My feet are so similar to the way yours are described, and I have bunions and bunionettes as well, run, and have trouble finding comfy running shoes. Thanks for your post!

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  14. Thanks! Very helpful. I'm also a runner with bunions and have also found that socks REALLY matter. I had a perpetual blister on my bunion until switching to double layered (but still very thin) socks. My favorites are called "Runner II" at REI and have a "no blister guarantee." I also put "Glide" on my bunion and bunionette areas and on the tips of my toes before every run and that helps too.

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  15. Good article, I feel your pain! Although your bunions look like my right foot, which I think of as my foot without a bunion. My left foot is much more impressive.

    I almost always unlace new shoes then lace them without using the pair of eyelets nearest the toe on one or both feet. This definitely reduces the pressure.

    When I do find shoes I can run in, I often split them, especially off road shoes. I've put my experience in my blog: http://cycleswimandrun.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/my-left-foot.html

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  16. Great post! Thanks for all the detailed suggestions for those of us with bunions.

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  17. Check out the running shoes Altras, I jus recently purchased these to migrate into more minimal shoe and run more midfoot. Great shape especially for bunionettes.

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  18. I'm a distance walker, no longer runner at 70, but a bad bunion on my left foot has been my biggest problem, blistering especially. I found ASICS Gel Tech Walker Neo 2 shoes and get them in a 9&1/2 (still get dress shoes at 8&1/2. I've stockpiled pairs at this point. My only problem is rain when I'm walking bc the mesh is pretty open. Can there be any good walking shoes for bunion comfort that are leather???

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  19. Hello ! I know you said no nike… but these don't seem to have the bunion windows. of these two.. which would you suggest?

    http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/air-pegasus-30-running-shoe/pid-920353/pgid-745931

    http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/free-4-flyknit-running-shoe/pid-1064821/pgid-1481072

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    Replies
    1. Look at how shallow the depth of the flyknit is.

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    2. Yeah, I was just hopeful. Thanks for your reply! Went to a shoe store today and had zero luck! ASICS feel like magic but I know the overlays will rub and hurt… ugh! What have you been running in lately? Bunion struggles.

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    3. Nothing, since I'm awaiting surgery for a torn hip labrum :( but my most recent shoes are listed in the more recent version of this post.

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  20. Any suitable brand/model for bunions lately? So tired of shopping for shoes but my old pair are really worn out.

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    Replies
    1. Check the updated post:
      http://complicatedday.blogspot.com/2013/05/buying-running-shoes-for-bunions.html
      It's a little more recent, although it could use another update.

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  21. Thank you for this post! Have bad bunionttes and bunions. Just trying to walk in a shoe is painful. With not much money to spend I been years of buying cheap shoes. I see that is not the answer! one good pair that works will do me. Thank you. I will try your advice. Bless your heart.

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