A Hot Girl's Guide to Having Bunions in Your 20s

A Hot Girl's Guide to Having Bunions in Your 20s

Recommendations for you—or for anyone on your gift list who shares this regrettable problem.

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Image: VIVAIA (top left); Brooks (top right); Allbirds (bottom left); Oofos (bottom right)

As the daughter of a woman who clocks in at 4’11”, I was introduced to the allure of high heels at a young age, and have dabbled in some fashionable elevation myself over the years: a toe-cramming gladiator heel here, a fatally pointy thigh high boot there. But any shoe fanatic will tell you that a pretty shoe is almost never a comfy shoe—beauty is pain, after all. And after a relatively short career in glamorous footwear and at the youthful age of 25, I’ve been forced to box up my beloved collection and succumb to only the most accommodating of footwear. The culprit? A villainous bunion. No, the star of my quarter-life crisis isn’t a career spiral, nor is it a relationship I suddenly realized I wasn’t happy in. While those troubles do seem pretty stressful, no words could ever adequately describe the pain of dealing with a worsening bunion—physically and aesthetically.

A bunion is a “structural deformity [in] one of the long bones in your feet that causes the characteristic painful bump on the inside of the foot,” near your big toe, podiatrist Dr. Miguel Cunha told Jezebel. Bunions form when the bone just under your big toe shifts towards the middle of your foot, causing your big toe to turn sideways, changing the angle of the bones making up your big toe joint. Do you love me describing my bunions to you? Is it hot? Sexy, even? Should I start an ASMR channel, eventually gaining critical acclaim as the ultimate zillennial bunion influencer? I can’t imagine there’s much competition.

Out in the real world, one might simply call Cunha a “doctor,” but to me, he’s nothing short of a guru whose wisdom and expertise I’ve sought in the hopes of being cured. Over the past 11 years, he’s treated the foot afflictions of New York’s dancers, athletes, and—let’s face it—old people. He told me that women are 10 times more likely than men to develop bunions because we’re “more likely to wear narrow, tight, pointed shoes that force the big toe inward and place increased pressure on the [long bone].” How’s that for the painful price of beauty standards? And while bunions are genetically inherited (not unlike height—thanks mom!), they “progress more rapidly over time because of nurture.” That’s a kind way of putting “wearing dumbass shoes.”

What are the options for the bunion-inflicted? Traditionally, it’s either been a surgery that has a 6 to 12-week recovery period or the ugliest medical grade clogs imaginable. But that simply won’t work for me, a 25-year-old who does, to some extent, care about looking good and having relatively cute shoes. And so I’ve taken it upon myself to embark on an arduous trek (literally, because my feet fucking hurt) to help enlighten other sub-senior citizens of the Bunion Society who seek both dignity and comfort.

DISCLAIMER: No feet were harmed, nor pics of them sold, in the making of this guide.

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Sole Bliss Verity Heel, $247

Sole Bliss Verity Heel, $247

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Photo: Sole Bliss

Shh, this shoe has a little secret: a “cleverly concealed” bunion pad. For those of you whose workplaces have yet to ditch business formal, the Sole Bliss Verity heel—which comes in Black Suede, Nude Leather, and Pale Gray Patent—will ensure that your work day is filled with as much bliss as late-stage capitalism can allow. This masterfully hidden bunion pad alleviates the pressure that would otherwise cause a bunion to form. And while bunion lore might have you believe that heels are a total no-go, Cunha assured me that as long as your heels are 1.5 inches or lower, you won’t have to deal with the gravitational shift responsible for putting more pressure on your forefoot. You heard the man: Clickity-clack away, you little girlboss!

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Blundstone Women’s Original High Top Boots, $219.95


Blundstone Women’s Original High Top Boots, $219.95

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Photo: Blundstone

Moving to New York has made me ditch many things—my car, the urge to talk to people while riding the elevator, and any preconceived notions about how much a regular cup of coffee should cost—but the one thing that I refused to part with (and that have actually come in just as handy!) are my trusted Blundstone high top boots. These chunky, durable numbers were a bitch to break in, but after a year of stomping around the Midwest, they’re as comfortable as can be. While other Blundstone wearers come for the “premium leather” and “iconic pull tabs,” I’ve obviously stayed for a toe box so wide that my bunion has never even met the side of this trusted rustic boot. It’s roomy down here!

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VIVAIA Square-Toe Water Repellent Bootie, $109-149

VIVAIA Square-Toe Water Repellent Bootie, $109-149

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Photo: VIVAIA

We’ve seen many a scary fashion trend this year, but boots that resemble socks is one that I can certainly get behind. If they can trick me into thinking that I never left the house and provide relief for my aching feet, then what more can I ask for, really? VIVAIA’s square-toe water repellent bootie has everything I need in a winter shoe: Not only will it prevent my little piggies from crowding, but it’ll also make my inevitable treks in the gray sludge New York tries to pass off as snow a little less miserable, seeing as my socks apparently won’t get sopping wet.

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Photo: Sorel

If up until now, memory foam has only been on your list of must-haves when it comes to mattress shopping, I implore you to add this to your list of non-negotiables for finding the perfect fall/winter bootie. Of the Sorel Emilie Chelsea boot’s many qualities—its waterproof suede, high traction rubber, and modest platform heel—what Cunha emphasized most about this shoe is its footbed made of memory foam. I’m not really a “bold colors” type of gal (neutrals reign supreme in my closet), but with a boot this cute, I could be convinced. New year, new me, right?

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Photo: Brooks

What I’ve come to learn during this quest is that toe boxes are like JNCO pant legs: that the wider, the better. (My millennial colleague told me that joke. I had to Google “JNCO.”) Brooks Cascadia 16 running sneaker comes first place on this feature: “If you’re wearing a shoe that has a wide, deep, accommodative toe box, you’re putting less pressure [on the area],” which then slows down the development of a potential bunion, Cunha explained. This “American Podiatric Medical Association approved” shoe (his words, not mine) is ready to provide you with what Brooks refers to as “all-terrain stability,” even if the peaks and valleys of your day only span the highs and lows of your own mental health. Plus, normie sneakers are in!

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Photo: HOKA

Similar to how suburban dads’ conversations always seem to devolve into an impassioned discussion about grilling techniques, every time a certain friend and I see each other, we always end up talking about how amazing HOKA Clifton 8’s are. How plush they are, we say. And how durable, too!, we coo. Our shared obsession has led us to conclude that they truly are just the shit, and are the only item that can convince us that pastel can and should be worn year round. And Cunha agrees! “They provide excellent cushioning for the bunion and the firm mid foot support to prevent pronation,” he told Jezebel. (For those of you who don’t know what pronation is, it’s a process that involves “the collapsing of the [foot] arch”). “It’s soft and rigid at the same time,” he said of the cushioning. That’s exactly what we like to hear.

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Photo: Allbirds

The past month or so of almost exclusively wearing my white Allbirds Tree Runner sneakers is just what my commute-exhausted toes had been begging for. As I aggressively eyed my editor-in-chief Laura Bassett’s black Wool Runners during a recent Jezebel happy hour, I thought to myself, If Laura can power walk through the streets of New York in AllBirds, why can’t I? Between its breathable eucalyptus fiber and bouncy foam soles, I’ve cared little that I’ve partnered even the most formal of work outfits with these glorified tennis shoes. Like any wise, unintentional influencer would, Laura did leave me with one warning upon purchase: “If you wear them without socks, your feet will smell like shit.”

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Photo: Oofos

Clogs always have the potential to creep into old lady territory, but Cunha recommended the Oofos Ooclog (which I highly suggest saying aloud), and at this point, I can’t reject any possibility of comfort—even though, at first glance, I’m not sure I’d wear these outside of, perhaps, a hospital’s operating room. But these shoes have “Oofoam technology” that “reduces the stress on your feet and joints.” Reducing stress! Good! For the statistically minded among you, this revolutionary shoe tech “absorbs 37% more impact”—as opposed to, I don’t know...other shoes?

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Photo: Oofos

It would be a stretch of massive proportions to call myself any sort of athlete, but I do fuck with sports fashion! Coming in a wide range of très chic muted colors like sage, mars red, mauve, and nomad, their Ooahh slide sandals’ wide toe box and anatomical cushioned footbed will have you walking on cloud nine. Pair them with your chillest Nike socks to pretend you’re an off-duty athlete during the winter, but please remember to get a pedicure before you pop the toesies out for all to see come spring.

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Ascent Groove Sandal, $79.99

Ascent Groove Sandal, $79.99

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Image: Ascent Footwear

By now, I’ve said perhaps all there needs to be said about bunion friendly footwear. Perhaps I’ve even said too much. There is only so much I can do to make myself feel better about a problem that has dawned on me far too early in life, but I’m begging you to stay with me for just one last shoe recommendation, even though my editor said of these shoes: “I’m losing it” (and not in the silly goofy way). The Groove sandal from the Australian brand Ascent might seem like just another flip flop to you, and if it weren’t for the fact that they are available in a size literally called “Female/Senior,” they just might be. But their slightly elevated heels (which alleviates pressure in the Achilles tendon) promises a shoe experience so comfortable that you might just forget your toe woes entirely. And isn’t that the whole point?

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Photo: Walmart/Alayna

Taking care of your prematurely geriatric feet does cost a pretty penny but it’s worth it: you only get two feet in this lifetime. If you aren’t quite ready to invest in all of these lovely recs (though I promise you that if you’ve stumbled upon this article, your feet are probably begging you to), the Alayna bunion corrector can alleviate your pain for much cheaper. If it’s not too gross of an analogy, think of it as a retainer for your foot, with soft and flexible foam that makes it easy to slip into almost any shoe. While the bunion corrector is a fine solution for the here and now, commitment-phobes might end up paying a steeper price in the long run: “It can provide comfort in the short term [but does] not necessarily prevent the formation of [a bunion] in the long term,” Cunha told Jezebel. Consider yourself warned!

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