Running with Bunions – The Suffering in Silence

Odd shape feet not fitting into your closed shoes? Struggling with bunions in your daily activities?

That’s me. And sadly, nothing much could be done to reverse my bunions unless I am ready for corrective surgery.

Bunions are not uncommon in ladies, with the belief that this condition is primarily caused by wearing ill-fitting and high heeled shoes. There are, however, men with this condition as well, which makes this allegation somewhat untrue. Recent research has said that about half of the population of people actually have this condition!


Betsy’s ugly feet

What are bunions? (for the benefit of those who have no clue!)


Bunion is a boney lump that happens at the big toe joint.

  • Our foot is made up of 5 metatarsals (mid-section of foot)
  • Bunions happen along the first metatarsal, at the joint that joins to the big toe.
  • They cause the big toe to ‘bend’ inwards toward the other toes, and the metatarsal to turn outwards, causing a bony bump at the joint.

This condition is usually accompanied by the collapse of the inner arch of the foot, which causes extra pressure to be placed on the big toe joint. These two disorders usually happen concurrently, each problem amplifies the other : the collapsed arch accelerates the formation of bunions, and the bunions further diverts the metatarsals, further undermining the arches.

The cause?

We have always heard the blame on women’s ill-fitting or high heeled shoes, or our hereditary genes. It is easy and somewhat convenient to put the blame to SOMETHING, but considering the data collected by researches on bunions, these figures are taken from shoe-wearing populations. Very little is known about this condition before people had wore shoes.How many people with bunions have you heard of who claimed that they have never worn ill-fitting or ‘bad’ shoes in their lives, to possibly cause these bunions forming later on?

I believe there are actually many more unreported cases of bunions. This could be a more common condition than we already think it is, with bunions forming that don’t look as severe in its deformity to get noticed as a condition.

The loading of our body weight and pressure on our feet is KEY in the forming of bunions.

What could cause bunions to form and deteriorate could be due to long-term displacement of the big toe, or incorrect loading of the joint that causes the tissue growth to push the big toe out of angle. People with this predisposed condition are more likely to develop or aggravate already formed bunions to make them worse, causing inflammation and sometimes, intense pain. The second stage of bunions are often less painful but looking more severe in its deformity, and this is known as hallux valgus, a permanent rigidity of the bone joint.

Bunion aggravating factors :

  • Turned-out feet
  • Collapsed arches
  • Heels with no arch support, thus putting pressure on the big toe joint
  • Poorly fit shoes
  • Tight shoe boxes

Maybe we have a fix?

If its our walking posture and ill-fitting shoes that aggravate our bunion conditions, its not difficult to resolute to make a change to improve our foot form. Orthopedic shoe insoles and inserts often help support collapsed arches. Foot strengthening exercises aid in ‘arousing’ the muscles that have long been forgotten, and being constantly conscious about the way we walk and move helps to reduce the turning out of our feet. Selection of our footwear

I have consulted a few ortho surgeons. The private hospital surgeons did not recommend a surgery, saying that unless the pain is unbearable when walking, and that this should absolutely be the last option to turn to. Surgery involves removing part of the bone from the joint, with screws and metal fixes inserted to align the metatarsal. Recovery time takes months, and does not guarantee the problem to stay away. Surely, it doesn’t sound right at all, to go through the pain, impede my normal daily movement for who knows months or even years?

My pain

I have a bunion on my left foot (hallux valgus), and I can see the right one forming as well. Pointed heels make the pain unbearable. I can only do round front, low heels with preferably platform in front. Buying shoes are a pain to the extent that I have given up on pretty dress shoes, wearing only my rosherun and sneakers. Because of the misalignment, i wear bunion splints at night to help to hold the metatarsal in place, but this can cause throbbing nerve pain throughout the night. A horrible pain actually, some of my friends who tried to wear the same splint could not take the agony during their sleep.


Hallufix Flexible Splint – available on

In the daytime, I place a gel toe separator in between my first and second toe to prevent further inward movement of the big toe. Normal walking does not affect me much. But exercising and pilates that sometimes require me to be on my toes do cause some pain, which I have probably half gotten used to by now.

gel separators

Gel Separators – Available on

How do I still run?

Though I am not a good runner, running gives me the cardio burn I need to keep myself feeling fit and lean! However, because of my foot placement on my affected leg, I need to pay extra attention to my choice of running shoes as well as posture and form.

When choosing a pair of running shoes, do take note of :

  1. Ankle Support – Look for Anti-Pronation shoes if you have a tendency to roll inwards when running or walking. Some of the good choices are Brooks GTS, Asics GT-2000 and New Balance 860 or 940.
  2. Toebox Width – A wider toe box allows for more comfortable movement of your toes. The last thing you want for your bunion-tortured feet is to have the toes squeezing into a narrow fitting shoe. These are some of the best in the market for wider shoe options : Brooks Ghost 7, New Balance W1080. Ask for wider shoe widths. I find New Balance in width D really comfortable for me.
  3. Bunion Windows – Bunion windows are a soft mesh or fabric overlay at where the bunion(s) is located. Not many shoes offer bunion windows and although brands like Saucony, New Balance, Mizuno and Brooks make great wide shoes, but there are no windows. Asics wins the leader of the pack. If you have bad bunions like mine that really sticks out from your feet, Asics would be the best choice recommendation.
  4. Metatarsal Support – A good metatarsal support shoe will ensure a proper alignment of the front of your feet when running. Newton offers good shoes with metatarsal support, although I have yet to try any of their running shoes. Another recommended option will be the New Balance 1123 Motion Control.
  5. Suitable Cushioning – If you have bunions, chances are you are running with the whole weight of your body striking the ground on one joint. Ease the pressure with a good-cushioned shoe. In my experience, running with minimalist or barefoot shoes offering hardly any cushioning at all is akin to hitting your entire body weight on the ground again and again with each stride. Brooks and Asics are still the best in my opinion when it comes to the right cushioning for running. Also, take note of the different types of shoes for road and trail running depending on where you normally run.

Lastly, always remember to wear good running socks that provides a light to moderate padding.

Just in case you are wondering, I currently run in my Asics Gel-Blur and occasional Nike LunarGlide when I travel. What shoes do you run in?

Love Betsy

  1. scratchtype1 said:

    You might want to look at the following link,

    It seems fairly certain that shoe-wearing does contribute to the likelihood of people developing bunions, but there is far less certainty about how much difference there is between rates of bunions and kinds of closed-toe shoes.

    It is likely that some people are more predisposed to developing bunions if they wear shoes, probably due to some factor or factors of genetic variation to natural foot shape and structure. Judging by the photo of your feet, you probably had some bad luck with that and in combination with shoe-wearing, you are where you are now.

    As to what your best course for the future is, that’s going to be up to you and your doctor.

    Good luck.

    • Thank you for sharing the link. It’s an awesome read. You are spot on about my foot condition : my mom had bunions and apparently it runs in my family. And they are made worse by the choices of footwear I wore as a teenager. I have ruled out surgery for now and they are not going to stop me from running. In fact, the harder I run, the better I feel. Not letting these bunions dictate my life. 🙂 thanks for dropping by 🙂

  2. Would you ever consider removing your bunion through surgery? My friend did so. Recovery was painful but she was happy with the results.

    • Hi, thank you for dropping by the site. I have actually considered surgery but I opted out later on. I guess I am fine with regular walking, and they are not going to stop me from running either. I run harder, because I want to win and ‘conquer’ the bunions. I guess for now, I’ll learn to live with them and prevent them from getting worse.

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