Does running make a bunion worse? Only if you wear the wrong running shoes. Did you know, you can actually halt the growth of your bunion? If you’re a runner or a non-runner and you’re a bunion sufferer, there are key practices that officially do a great job at putting the brakes on your bunion growth.
As it stands, going barefoot more often and/or wearing flat running shoes is a ray of hope for bunion sufferers as barefooting and/or going pure minimalist are dominant factors in preventing bunion enlargement and is the best bunion support for runners.
Best Bunion Support for Runners
Going barefoot more often is probably the best form of bunion treatment because your forefoot is in a better position to expand since nothing confines, restricts or prevents toe splay at each step.
Accumulating evidence now supports that when you walk and run barefoot outdoors, your forefoot muscles and soft tissues will strength quickly because they’ll be more robustly engaged on many fronts.
Going barefoot encompasses more than just fostering strong feet, it’s a highly effective strategy to employ more limitations on bunion growth by improving toe alignment and improving muscle, tendon and ligament alignment surrounding the bunion as well. Again, this is because the foot muscles are more effectively and repeated engaged and anatomically expanded in barefoot walking/running, which is the underlying dynamics for building stronger, wider feet.
Wide and Flat Minimalist Shoes
If you are reluctant to go barefoot outdoors, then it’s imperative that you wear minimalist shoes that are zero-drop (completely flat, with a 0 mm heel-to-toe differential), but also has a wide-toe box for optimal toe spreading – these are the best bunion running shoes!
Always avoid narrow running shoes with a large heel-to-toe offset (elevated heel, like most traditional running shoes.
Aside from hereditary factors, in most cases, a bunion is merely a by-product of long-term use of narrow footwear and high-heeled footwear whereby eventually, your feet will pay the physical price by developing a bunion.
Long-established ideas suggests that wearing a running shoe that has a large elevated heel lays the groundwork for encouraging bunion enlargement because a large heel-toe offset naturally tips the body weight forward, exerting a high degree of pressure on the base of the big toe (Loli, 2011). The added weight in the forefoot in these shoes physically forces the toes into the front of the shoe (Loli, 2011), and if your running shoe has a narrow toe-box, a narrow toe-box wont be able to accommodate the protrusion of the forefoot when most of the body weight is immensely concentrated over the base of the big toe when you run and walk (Loli, 2011).
As a consequence, the feet will be repeatedly squeezed into a more narrow framework which will consolidate into something that mis-shapes the joints in the front of the foot, resulting in pressure-driven bunion growth that also translates into factors that depress adequate foot function.
Luckily, bunion growth can reversed by running and walking in flatter, wider footwear. In fact, researchers strongly recommend wearing a shoe with a heel height no higher than one inch, and of course, the flatter the shoe, the better to prevent constant over-loading on the forefoot.
The Take Home Message
It is not only about wearing a wide shoe, which of course, is very logical for treating a bunion, but reversing and halting bunion growth largely depends on the heel height of your running shoe. A flatter shoe will reduce abnormal peak pressure on the big toe and will give your foot better spatial ability needed to obtain a wider forefoot. This is how you get a big drop in bunion growth.
In that regard, there is definitely a one-size-fits-all form of bunion treatment and that is wearing flatter shoes. Based on the research, shoe flatness appears as a good metric, allowing for better foot health and allows you to make notable progress in shrinking your bunion.
Loli PJ. What to do about bunions. Harvard Womens Health Watch, 2011, pp.4-7
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.