Tips for Wearing High Heels With Bunions

Bunions can make finding comfortable shoes very difficult. Not only are many people reluctant to wear certain shoes that might show their bunions, but it can also be tricky to find shoes that actually keep your feet comfortable and relatively pain-free.

If you like wearing high heels or need to wear them for work or corporate functions, it might be even more difficult for you if you have bunions. The nature of high heels means that extra strain is placed on the forefoot, so they may increase your pain and discomfort.

There’s good news, though. We’ve put together our top tips for wearing high heels with bunions, which can reduce pain and increase comfort significantly.

Try these before you give up on high heels completely!

How Are Bunions Formed?

Bunions form on the MTP joint of the foot, as a bony growth that protrudes out to the side of the foot. As a result, the big toe begins to turn inwards towards the other toes, which leaves the joint misaligned and painful.

These growths are a result of excess pressure on the MTP joint over time. While this can be caused by high or low arches placing pressure on the joint as you overpronate, genetics, or arthritic conditions, wearing high heels can also contribute to a bunion developing over time.

This is because high heels can place the big toe joint under constant pressure, leading to the joint going out of alignment. Also, if the heels have a narrow or pointed toe box, the lack of room for the toes to splay comfortably may lead to muscle imbalances.

In some cases, you can also develop a bunion on the outer edge of the foot on the 5th metatarsal joint. This is known as a bunionette or tailor’s bunion.

Can You Wear High Heels With Bunions?

If you love wearing high heels or are required to wear them for work but have bunions, you don’t have to stop wearing them entirely.

You can wear high heels with bunions as long as you take precautions to keep your feet comfortable and pain-free. However, just sliding into any old pair of high heels is a painful disaster waiting to happen!

It’s a good idea to be picky about which pairs of high heels you put your feet into. You might not be able to wear that pretty pair you really liked, but there’s bound to be a pair you find attractive that will actually be good for your feet.

Tips for Wearing High Heels With Bunions

If you want to be able to wear high heels with bunions without damaging your feet or being in agony when you’re on your feet, try some of these easy tips.

1. Avoid Pointed Toes

Pointed-toed high heels can force your toes into an unnatural position. The big toe and baby toe, specifically, will most likely be pushed inwards towards the other toes, which is exactly the problem with bunions.

Putting your feet into these shoes will only exacerbate bunions. The pointed toe box will end up placing pressure on the side of your foot where the bunion is located, leading to pain and worsening the problem.

Instead of pointed toes, try to choose high heels with rounded or square toes. This will give your toes more room to splay naturally, preventing them from being crushed together and forced into an unnatural position like pointed toe boxes will do.

They may not seem as elegant to you as pointed shoes, but if you want a reprieve from your foot pain, this is one of the best ways to help.

2. Choose a Platform Toe

This is a smart way to take some pressure off your big toe. When the toe is slightly elevated as well as the heel, it takes pressure off of the forefoot, because the drop from heel to toe is less than regular high heels.

You’ll still get the height you want, but having a platform under your toes significantly reduces the amount of flexion in the big toe and lowers the amount of pressure on the forefoot as you place your weight on it.

Even a slight reduction in pressure on the big toe joint can significantly lower pain and discomfort. This is a very simple way of easing pain in your feet while still wearing fashionable and elegant shoes.

3. Choose a Half-Size Larger

Shoes that are too small for your feet put extra pressure on the area where the bunion forms.

Instead of putting your feet into heels that are likely to squeeze your feet and toes, choosing a shoe that’s a half-size larger than your regular size may be worthwhile.

While shoes that are too big do run the risk of chafing your feet as you move, you can easily remedy this by placing bunion pads or other padding inside the shoe on the side of the bunion.

If the larger size causes your heel to slip in the shoe, you can also use heel pads to make up some of the space inside the shoe. If the shoes you want don’t come in half sizes, you can try a full size larger, but be aware that this might be too big to fit comfortably.

In this case, it might be best to choose a different shoe brand or model that offers half sizes.

4. Opt for Lower Heels

Similarly to adding a platform to the forefoot of your heels, choosing lower heels can help reduce the pressure placed on your forefoot. This can have a noticeable effect on your pain.

Firstly, there’ll be less force pushing down on your MTP joint. This joint takes on a lot of your body weight, which is multiplied as you wear shoes that lift the heel and cause you to stand more on the forefoot.

Secondly, lower heels mean that there’s less chance of your toes being pushed into the toe box as you stand and walk. This can give your toes more space to splay, reducing the chance of them being forced out of their natural positions.

5. Choose a Stretchy Upper

A stretchy upper will give your bunion extra space. Rather than a rigid upper forcing your foot into a small space, a stretchy upper will move with the natural shape of your foot, reducing that pressure on the painful bunion.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find high heels with stretchy uppers. Many feature rigid, synthetic, or leather uppers.

If you want a shoe with a stretchy upper, you may be better off choosing something like the LifeStride Women’s Charlotte High Heel Sandals, which have a stretchy upper that still has enough structure to support your feet.

6. Use Padding

You can significantly improve the comfort of your high heels by placing padding inside your shoes on the side of the shoe that the bunion is.

Remember that this won’t necessarily help with pressure on the bunion caused by your body weight. But it will alleviate pain from chafing.

You can find bunion cushions online, like the ZenToes Bunion Cushions. These are small and easy to place inside your shoes, and can make a big difference to your level of comfort when wearing high heels.

7. Use A Rubber Sole

This might not work for every pair of heels, but it can make a small difference. Adding a rubber layer underneath the soles of your high heels can add extra grip.

But more importantly, it can increase the shock absorption of the shoes, reducing vibrations through the bunion as you walk. This may reduce pain, but it’s unlikely to help with chafing or pressure.

Wearing High Heels After Bunion Surgery

Bunion surgery is usually a last resort. The bunion is removed or shaved down, and the big toe is realigned. In most cases, this involves using pins and screws to keep the toe aligned.

As you may imagine, this can be painful surgery and takes some time to recover from. However, even after recovery, it’s highly recommended NOT to wear high heels, as this can push your toe out of alignment again and undo all the work done by the surgeons.

If you have to wear smart shoes after bunion surgery, we recommend a pair of flat pumps or if you absolutely have to wear heels—which we don’t recommend—choose a pair with a small heel and a platform to keep your foot as neutral as possible.

Other Tips for Keeping Bunions Comfortable In Shoes

Try a Bunion Corrector

Bunion correctors are a way to treat your bunions at home and can help you get a better fit and feel in your shoes.

Some of them are designed to be worn without shoes, and are usually more robust. However, you can find bunion correctors that can fit easily into shoes, allowing you to wear the shoes you like while keeping your toes held in position gently and comfortably.

Go For Wide Toe Boxes

Having space in the toe box for your toes to splay naturally makes a huge difference to the comfort of bunions.

This stops your feet from being forced into a position that causes the joints to go out of alignment. If you want to use a bunion corrector, this is also the best type of shoe to use it in.

Get the Right Arch Support

Making sure your shoe has the right arch support is more important than you think for bunions. This will ensure that your body weight is properly distributed, reducing pressure on the big toe joint.

You can find athletic shoes with high, medium, and low arch support. If you can’t find the same in sneakers or work shoes, you might want to consider buying an orthotic, either over-the-counter or getting one made for your feet.