Don’t Let Bunions Derail Your Workout
Bunions. The word just sounds unpleasant. And if you suffer from bunions, you know they’re not just unpleasant, but painful. Bunions are painful swellings on the outside of the first joint of the big toe, and they can also occur outside the first joint of the pinkie ties (called “tailor’s” bunions in this case). Some people can be more prone to bunions than others due to heredity. However, the biggest cause of bunions is shoes. Human feet really weren’t made to be squished into pointy-toed shoes, or even too-small shoes for that matter. As I learned the hard way, when you repeatedly walk (or run) around in shoes that are too cramped in the toe box or bend your toes in ways they weren’t meant to be bent, over time, bunions can form. Exercising, and especially running, with bunions can be a painful experience.
If the bunions are too severe, surgery may be the only option. However, there are several things you can do to ease bunion pain and continue exercising if they are not yet to that point. I’m no doctor, but most things I read say that bunions cannot be “cured” except by surgery, and once formed, they will continue to get worse without proper measures. So in today’s post I’m going to share a few things that have helped with my own bunions, allowing me to keep exercising and avoid surgery at least for now.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Shopping via these links means I may earn a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. As always, all opinions expressed here are 100% my own, and I only share products and brands that I love and think you will, too. ALSO, I am definitely not a doctor, so if you think you have bunions you should see your medical provider before attempting any remedy or treatment on your own.
The Right Shoes
The importance of well fitting, comfortable shoes cannot be understated. The right shoes have made a huge positive difference in my own bunion experience. I have moderate bunions on my big toe joints on both feet, and I also have tailor’s bunions on both feet. I’m a full-time teacher and part-time fitness instructor: both of which put an incredible amount of stress on my feet. The first half of my teaching career, I wore the cheapest, cutest shoes I could find. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was creating the perfect environment for bunions to form. My teaching shoes were often a tad too small and definitely didn’t have cushioning. My workout sneakers were better, but I didn’t know my toes needed extra wiggle room when exercising due to feet swelling when they get warmed up. I just thought my feet hurting terribly at the end of the day was par for the course with my job. Wrong. I was wearing the wrong shoes.
What to Look For:
- Room in the toe box
- Arch support
- A good fit
- Low or no heels (less “drop”)
I’ve done several other posts on shoes that are comfortable as well as stylish. Here’s one on stylish, comfortable sandals, another on foot friendly sandals, and here’s another focusing on foot friendly boots.
Running and Exercising With Bunions
I used to run a lot years ago, but I was wearing shoes that were a little too small and my bunions got rapidly worse during that time. I assumed it was running itself, but turns out it was more likely my shoes. Recently I tried Altra Running shoes, which are extra wide at the toe box and have a zero drop (both thought to be better for people with bunions). I was amazed at how good my feet felt in the shoes, and I have even been able to start running again! I absolutely love the Altra Torin 4 model: they feel SO good on my feet while walking or running.
For instructing and working out in group fitness classes (kickboxing and strength training), I currently wear Hoka Hupanas, and I like them a lot. Altra also makes gym/fitness shoes, and because I love the Altras so much for running, I plan to try the Altra Solstice XT model when my Hupanas wear out.
Strengthening & Stretching Helps
I’ve also started doing some foot strengthening exercises and stretches, which has helped. Again, I’m no doctor, so you’ll want to get your feet checked out by your own physician before doing any of these. I’m just saying they have helped me a lot. These are the exercises and stretches I have been using.
- Calf Stretch and Foot Strengthening Exercises (from Everyday Teacher Style post on Keeping Your Feet Happy and input from Amanda Walrath, PT).
- 10 Simple Foot Exercises for Bunion Relief and Prevention (from Healthline)
- Stretches to Relieve Bunion Pain (from Capital District Podietry)
- Bunion Stretch/Soft Tissue Release massage (from Northwest Foot and Ankle)
Toe Spacers & Bunion “Correctors”
If you Google bunion pain, you’re likely to see lots of ads and articles for “bunion correctors.” There are a gazillion different products on the market, and many people claim to have found relief, and even improvement, from one or more of these devices. In my opinion, these are definitely worth a try. Here are a few I have personally tried.
- Yoga Toes – These did give my toes a good stretch, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say there was any improvement of my bunions. They were not the most comfortable to wear, although you are only meant to wear them 30 minutes per day. I found I couldn’t really do anything while wearing them because I couldn’t walk around very well with them on. I had to wear these barefoot, so my toes got cold when I wore them in the winter.
- Correct Toes – I just recently started trying these, and they were much more comfortable (albeit more expensive). Rather than a 30-minutes-per-day stretch, they are designed to wear them for long periods of time. They say that once you get used to them, you even wear them exercising and running. I also liked that I can wear toe socks (I love Injinji toe socks!) under them AND wear them in wide toe shoes like my Altras. I haven’t tried running in them yet, but I can see how you could. These are customizable, and I may need to trim mine around the pinkie toes because I think they stretch it out a little too far for me.
Have you tried any special bunion spacers or socks? There are so many on the market it’s overwhelming. Drop a comment if you have: I’d love to hear about your experience with products like this.