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.|
|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.|
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.|
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.|
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|