Supportive Shoes for Bunion
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- Chronicity 18+ Months
This is a topic I unfortunately have a wealth of experience with. I suffered a basketball injury to my right foot ~10 years ago that left me with a bunion and hallux rigidus (stiff big toe). I've accepted that it will never heal, but I've learned how to manage it so that it has virtually no impact on me running 80 miles/week.
First things first - I would advise against the Nike Frees. I tried the 3.0 three years ago, and while they felt great (light and fast), they were a major factor in me developing a significant foot injury (capsulitis) that left me unable to walk without pain for a year. I thought that I'd never run again. Because of the Free's last, I inadvertently began overusing the outside of my right foot, resulting in my big toe (with the bunion) not doing its share of the work. The first sign, which I promptly ignored, was peroneal tendonitis along the outside of the right calf. I foam-rolled / "sticked" it away and continued running high mileage. Then the ball of my right foot swelled up and running became impossible.
I saw several orthopedic surgeons, a couple physical therapists, bought two expensive pairs of orthotics, and finally relearned how to use my big toe after a trying year.
I've learned that I need to do the following to keep my foot fully functional:
*Always be aware of my gait when walking and running. Proprioception is a funny thing in that you can sometimes lose it without knowing. I now periodically "check in" with my foot to make sure I feel the big toe pushing off and taking on about 2/5 of the load.
*Stick with lightweight stability shoes. I like New Balance because the toe box is typically fairly wide. The 90x series was great for me and I use the 1190 now. The Saucony Mirage is another one I've had success with. You may require a different shoe, but I'd recommend sticking with some support, although you don't have to go over 10 ounces.
*Interestingly, I now depend on the Correct Toes by Dr. Ray McClanahan. I tried a couple of the cheap spacers before, but the fact I can slap some socks and shoes on top of these make them well worth the expensive price. I wear them all day and night except for when I'm running or doing some other moderate physical activity.
*I have to spend about 5 minutes pre-run and preferably 20 either post-run or in the evening massaging my foot and finger-spacing my toes. My left hand spaces and my right thumb goes in between and massages the knots/bubbles out of the ball of my foot near the big toe area. I also wiggle the big toe around a bit while it makes all kinds of arthritic cracking noises to try to keep the range of motion that I have left.
That's about all I can think of at the moment.
The thing that helps me (I have a mild bunion--thanks Mom) is wearing yoga toes. They're kind of hard to explain, but they are rubber toe spacers that hep stretch out your feet. I wear the yoga toes around the house. Mosty when I'm hanging out watching a movie or reading. They were pretty uncomfortable at first, so I could only keep them on for 10 minutes or so at a time, but over time, my feet have adjusted, and I can wear them for much longer.
I apply either body glide or similar or my feet before I lace up, but other than a sock (prefer Balega or Smartwool), I don't wear anything special for the bunion. I tried KTape, but I it didn't do much and didn't stay put for long. I've used it elsewhere for shin and knee issues, without any problems, but maybe I didn't do it well. I only tried it once.
If you have a good yoga teacher, you might also ask her (or him) about ways to stretch your feet. There are a couple poses that really hurt at the time but do wonders. But you want to have someone who knows what they are doing show you in person.
Lastly, I'll say that I used to wear Sauconys, but I switched to Nikes after trying on a pair of the Frees. I don't run in the Frees, but they have a wider toe box, and when I tried them on, I realized that the shoes I had been wearing were largely to blame for that blister. I isn't completely goe (I still have a bit of a callous there), but it's nowhere near as bad as it was in the other shoes. I've been reading about Hokas elsewhere on the forum and it sounds like there are a few styles that are less narrow than others.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
- tape the underneath part of the bunion (the bit where the sole of the foot meets it) - not to change mechanics but to add a second skin. I even used duck tape once when I couldn't get hold of anything else and it got me through a half marathon in good time!
- walk around barefoot whenever possible
- practice squats etc - make sure you're flexible, do whatever you can to ensure correct alignment in all other parts of the body - glute strength etc
- I saw a barefoot running coach and ended up in minimalist shoes after he completely changed my technique. This has helped my running generally, but I am with the people who say that the shoe is only as good as the technique.
- soak feet in white spirit to harden skin (it honestly works but only if you do it regularly - and it really hurts when you have blisters so have a glass of whiskey to hand!)
- stretch your feet
- roll a golf ball around the sole of your foot
- practice picking up marbles with your toes
- always paint your toenails if you're a woman - it makes them look a little bit nicer at least - cheers me up anyway
- keep your ankles as strong as possible
By the way, I've had this problem since I was about 9. Got teased about it in the school changing rooms, was very upsetting at the time. Definitely a hereditary condition as I was never allowed "bad" footwear as a child.
At one point several years ago, my toes were so pissed off that I limped everywhere and began overpronating/walking on my heels in order to avoid putting any pressure on the joints. What helped:
- ibuprofen, yes
- changing to wider shoes with low or no heels, except for extremely rare occasions
- wearing toe separators every night, and as often as possible during the day, to stretch the joint at the base of the big toe (a rolled-up trouser sock or similarly sized cloth object is a good substitute when you're in need)
- manual stretching and massage of the toe joints as well as the swelling itself. In my case, the pointy protrusion that I was initially certain was a bone deformity was a swollen bursal sac, which seemed to soften and become more mobile after progressive massage (progressive mostly because the burning inflammation means that at first it hurts like a mother just to touch the area, but this did get much better).
I have no pain or noticeable pointiness now, but the whole episode taught me to be much kinder to my feet, and I take the time to stretch and massage them now.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
I've got bunions - found out about 2.5 years ago from my sports med doctor, and they were already pretty far along at that point. He basically gave me some pointers on how to manage them and told me that I should opt for surgery as soon as the pain became too much for my active lifestyle. Currently, I consider my bunion issues to be manged quite well, although I realize I am on borrowed time because they become painful if I am not 100% perfect or when I run over 16 miles or so. My weekly workout schedule consists of 2-3 hours strength training, 3 hours of cross training, and anywhere from 25-45 miles per week of running (depending on the season). I am trying to avoid surgery in general, because surgery can reduce range of motion in the big toe.
Here are some things I absolutely must do to keep my pain managed:
1) ALWAYS wear arch support and shoes in general, with the exception of yoga or pilates. I should note that I also have very flat feet, which makes the arch support doubly important. You can get arch support for most types of shoes if you look around.
2) SHOES: Avoid wearing any shoes that pinch the toes in the front. The wider the toebox, the better. I only wear heels for going out, and even then I risk paying for it over the next three days. For work, choose comfort brands and avoid heels (I have luck with ecco, indigo by clarks/clarks, and privo). Never wear shoes that are unsupportive in front (such as ballet flats, driving mocs, flipflops), stiffer is beter. For running, you don't necessarily need those super supportive bunion shoes. I run in plain old stability New Balance shoes with an arch support, because they tend to be nice and wide in the front. Be sure to check out a running store because they are used to dealing with bunion issues.
3) REHAB: My toe is more comfortable when in a straight position, so I tape a toe spacer between my toes at night (you can get them at any drugstore - I actually use two per toe). If my bunions are acting up, I'll also tape my toes before running or working out. There are also some exercises that I do.
4) EXERCISE CHANGES: Complete at least 33% of my weekly running mileage on either a treadmill or an unpaved trail to lessen the impact on my feet. I also avoid exercises that will cause me to go up on my toes (such as lunges and calf raises).
5) WHEN BUNIONS ARE ACTING UP: Ice the inflamed area and take Aleve. This is what I have found to work best for me.
Go to a good foot doctorfor a diagnosis. You will most likely need to wear some sort of orthotic and be mindful of the shoes you wear. I cut out wearing any sort of heels long ago, and mine are doing O.K. Wearing good shoes (all shoes, not just running), soaking them from time to time in warm water and vinegar (yes, vinegar - stinks, but works), massages and wearing toe separators between your second and big toes certainly help. Recommended shoes are those with large toe boxes. For running, look for those with only mesh where the big toe joint lies in the shoe. Any sort of leather or emblem in that area can really irritate the joint. I wear Asics b/c they always seem to have toe boxes large enough to accomodate my big toe joint.
Most likely mine will require surgery to correct, but I have put that off, as I have been able to run with them fine so far. I've always heard from those who have had bunion surgery that your foot is never the same. One of my doctors told me that the patient will tell the doctor when they need the surgery, and that's when the patient just can't manage the pain.
I have early bunions and have found 3-4 items (used together) to be very helpful in alleviating any discomfort and (I hope) preventing the bunions from worsening. Injinji Toesocks, Correct Toes spacers, and wearing shoes with a wide toe box (I use Altra brand but there may be others). I also use metatarsal pads though the need for those will vary from person to person. They take some time to get used to, but they provide some additional support to the metatarsal bones.
I have what my podiatrist called "slight" bunions and I have very high arches so maybe that affects things differently. The podiatrist gave me a pair of orthotics that give me arch support but I rarely wear them... I can't feel the difference to be honest. What matters a lot to my comfort is having some wiggle room in the toe box, good foot flexion if walking long distance, and decent shock absorption (via padded insoles if necessary). With low arches you might have slightly different needs. Mostly though I can wear any flat or low heeled shoe in normal widths. I love heels but anything over 2.5 inches hurts my feet after a few hours... all my weight inevitably lands on the ball of my foot right where my bunions are. So unless it's a special occasion, I don't do high heels anymore.
I just wear comfortable shoes. My foot doctor told me that surgery was a last resort. There is a danger of infection...it take a long time to heal (I am diabetic) and the bunion could come back if the bone is weak. So I decided not to have the surgery.