Making sure your toes aren’t crowded in the shoe isn’t the only aspect you need to pay attention to. There are other specs to keep in mind when shopping for shoes to minimize pain.
Arch support and width
Arch support is essential for maintaining a healthy joint, says Dr. Lobkova. “Arch support has been shown to contribute to metatarsal stability and minimize pathologic wear and tear on the big toe joint.”
Then there is also the width of the forefoot or toe box. Wider shoes are generally better suited for people with bunions, but judging shoe width can be difficult. To determine this, Dr. Lobkova recommends tracing the outside of your foot with a pencil on a sheet of paper and comparing it with the shoe you are buying.
Soft upper material
The bunions will hurt the more inflamed the area. One cause of irritation is the rubbing of shoes against the bunion. That’s why it’s important to buy shoes that fit the contour of your foot, says Dr. Lobkova. “For example, a soft, flexible upper material like goatskin or neoprene will hug the contour of the foot instead of pressing against the joint,” she adds.
Minimum one inch heel
Completely flat shoes, including flat sneakers, can make bunion pain worse. “Lifting the heel slightly rotates the rest of the foot into a more optimal biomechanical position that puts less pressure on the big toe joint,” says Dr. Lobkova. Less pressure on the big toe means less stress on your bunion.
Placement of the sandal strap
Generally, open-toed shoes work best for people with bunions, but you should keep the placement of the straps in mind. Cross straps on the toes can cause chafing. Lobkova also recommends avoiding sandals with more than three straps and those made of PVC because the stiff material and placement of the straps can irritate the bunion.
Finally, if you can try on a shoe before buying it, do it. “The wrong shoes can be uncomfortable from the start,” she says.