What Are Runner’s Bunions – How Do I Treat And Prevent Them?

What Are Runner’s Bunions?

Bunions are a kind of foot condition where a person’s big toe pushes in toward the other toes. Over time, the bone of your big toe starts to bulge out on the side of your foot and can cause some discomfort and pain.

Bunions can be caused by a genetic predisposition, the natural shape of your feet, bad posture, or strenuous activity. Because of this, it is common for runners to develop bunions from both strenuous activities as well as improper footwear.

In this article, we’re going to look at everything bunions. What they feel like, what causes them for runners, and how to treat them.

Are Runner’s Bunions painful?

Runner’s bunions can be incredibly painful at worst, and uncomfortable at best. They can push against the inside of your shoes which can make the bunions sore, but they can also cause inflammation in the foot and pain in the rest of the foot. Additionally, because of the placement of bunions on the side of your foot, they are more prone to getting blisters and skin lesions as they can rub against your shoes more often.

Wearing improper footwear can make bunions feel more painful, especially during a run. Runners sometimes roll their feet inward when they have bunions to adapt to the pain, but unfortunately, that can lead to more issues with the foot. The exposed joint on the bunion is more susceptible to absorbing the impact of a runner’s feet when they hit the ground which is why bunions can be especially painful for runners.

What causes runner’s bunions?

There are many factors that contribute to why someone would develop bunions. Runners are especially susceptible to developing bunions. Strenuous activity can be one cause of bunions for many people, but for runners, it is most commonly caused by ill-fitting or improper footwear.

Shoes that are not made for runners, or shoes that do not properly fit can cause the toes to push in toward each other which can cause a bunion on your big toe. Improper shoes can also impact how your feet hit the ground and how the foot is impacted by the run. Proper running shoes and proper running posture can help prevent bunions from forming.

What are ways to treat runner’s bunions?

Luckily there are ways to treat runner’s bunions and the pain that comes from them. One place to start is by wearing shoes with a wider box, or a wider part where your toes go. This gives your toes more space to spread out so they don’t squish towards each other and make the bunion worse.

You can also tape your feet together at the widest point. This is also something ballet dancers, another athlete prone to bunions. Binding your feet with tape or bunion sleeves can help reshape your feet and train the toes to not crowd together and prevent pain while running. Only tape your feet while running though, it is not meant to be an all-day treatment.

In more extreme cases, if even taking over-the-counter pain killers doesn’t help with the bunion pain, some people opt for corrective surgery and give you a little bit of relief.

When should runners consider Bunion Corrective Surgery?

This comes down to the individual’s overall discomfort level and any impedance to quality of life. For instance, if you are struggling with simply walking without experiencing a sheer amount of discomfort or pain, then you might want to consider corrective surgery. Sometimes all you need is a wider toebox in your shoe or a typical shoe insert for bunions. Dr. Scholls makes a product called Bunion Cushions With Duragel (Amazon Link) that is widely popular with walkers.

What are the best ways to prevent runner’s bunions?

If you are an avid runner and you don’t yet have bunions, or you have very young bunions, the best thing you can do is try to prevent them from forming or getting worse. You should always make sure that you are wearing a proper running shoe that is catered to your feet. People with high arches shouldn’t wear the same kind of running shoes as someone with flat feet in the same way that people whose feet are more prone to bunions shouldn’t wear the same shoes as people unlikely to get them in the first place.

Apart from shoes, you need to pay attention to how you run and how your feet hit the ground while you run. Avoid running on your toes and try to make sure the middle of your foot hits the ground when you run, this can help you avoid putting pressure on the wrong part of your foot.

If runner’s bunions are left untreated what are the results?

Bunions, unlike blisters and calluses, don’t go away on their own. So once a bunion starts to form, if you don’t change how you run or what shoes you wear, the bunion will continue to get bigger and more painful until it gets so bad that you need corrective surgery.

What are the best types of running shoes for runners with bunions?

The best kind of shoe for people who have bunions or are prone to them is a shoe with a wide box. A wide box allows for your toes to spread out and not cram together toward the front of the shoe which will prevent the joint from becoming inflamed.

Related: How To Prevent And Treat 8 Common Running Injuries

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Coach Scott's Credentials:
  • Published Author
  • RRCA Certified Running Coach (Level 2)
  • RRCA Certified Youth Running Coach
  • NASM CPT (Certified Personal Trainer).
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  • NASM WLS (Weight Loss Specialist)
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He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 22nd half marathon race. 

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