Bunion Treatment Without Surgery - It May be Easier Than You Think

Posted on February 17, 2015 by Elf Martin There have been 78 comment(s)

Do you suffer from bunion pain? Have you been told that surgery was your only option for relief? If so, then we may have some good news for you: a podiatrist in Portland believes gentler, simpler options may be available.

Dr. Ray McClanahan is a leader in "conservative foot care" treatments and believes that most foot ailments can be prevented and/or treated be restoring natural function (i.e., barefoot-like movement). He is also the inventor of Correct Toes—simple, over-the-counter toe spacers that may help treat a wealth of foot problems.

Bear in mind that Dr. McClanahan's reasearch, and what you're about to read, challenges the views held by most traditional podiatrists.

What is a Bunion?

Bunions are among the most common and most painful foot ailments out there. Also known by the medical name hallux abductovalgus, a bunion occurs when your big toe points toward your second toe, causing a bump or prominence to develop on the inside edge of your big toe and first metatarsal bone. Symptoms include redness in the affected area, bursitis, blistering and/or callus formation over the bunion and nerve damage that may include numbness and/or sharp pain. If left untreated, the pain can also spread to nearby joints. Bunions affect women far more often than men, and that may not be a coincidence, according to McClanahan.

Bunion Treatment Without Surgery - It May be Easier Than You Think

Who has toes shaped like this?

What Causes Bunions?

While many factors may increase your chances of developing bunions, including arthritis, limb length inequalities and genetics, McClanahan believes conventional shoes that make women's feet look small and pointy may be the prime culprit. Fashionable women's shoes (and some men's shoes) tend to have tapered toe boxes, which push big toes inward. Raised heels and arch supports, also popular among conventional shoes, may also contribute to the development of bunions. Wearing these kinds of shoes for many years can lead to deformity in the feet, in which the big toe literally stays bent growing toward the second toe. When this happens, the point where the bunion occurs continues to protrude further. Think of it like a playground see-saw: when one end goes up, the other goes down. In the same way, when the upper bones of your big toe are pushed in, the lower bones are pushed out.

In cultures of people who routinely go barefoot, toes are usually the widest part of feet and bunions are extremely rare. In our western culture, however, the ball of the foot is commonly the widest point and bunions, located right at that spot, are quite common.

Bunion Treatment Without Surgery - It May be Easier Than You Think

Treatment Options

A conventional treatment for a bunion is a bunionectomy, or surgery that removes part of the bulging metatarsal bone and forcibly realigns the joints. This surgery is often followed with prescriptions for orthotic arch supports and highly cushioned shoes that keep feet confined in unnatural positions. While this may result in some pain relief, proponents of natural foot movement argue that the surgery does not confront the source of the issue and may be an extreme solution when other, less invasive options may be available. It is worth noting that bunions can still return after surgery, especially if the conditions that caused them in the first place have not changed.

Natural Bunion Treatment

McClanahan practices an alternative way to treat bunion patients with less invasive measures, essentially by gently restoring the natural shape and function of the foot. It's really quite simple:

  1. With the use of bunion splints or toe spacers (such as Correct Toes—McClanahan's own invention) toes can be gradually restored to a more natural position, thereby undoing the motion that pushes the bunion out. In other words, as your toes spread out, the bunion moves back in.
  2. Simple massage and range of motion exercises, like the one shown in the video below, can be very effective in relaxing and "retraining" foot muscles to move toes in their natural direction.
  3. Wearing footwear that encourages natural movement is strongly recommended to reverse, rather than encourage, the damage.



Bunion-Fighting Footwear

So what kind of shoes should you look for? McClahahan recommends finding shoes with the following features:

  1. Wide toe boxes that allow your feet to spread.
  2. Little or no arch support.
  3. Little or no elevated heels.
  4. Overall lightweight and flexible design.

Fortunately, many shoe manufacturers have begun making minimalist shoes that meet these criteria, including... [ahem]... Softstar Shoes! Every one of our shoes are designed to keep your feet as barefoot as possible with wide toe boxes and thin, flexible soles. We are proud to say we have a wide selection of fashionable women's shoes to keep your feet moving naturally... all made by hand in Oregon, USA!


 Who says stylish shoes have to hurt your feet?

We hear from many happy customers who have worn our shoes to help reverse bunion pain and find relief. Please remember that we are shoemakers, not doctors, so we can't make any medical claims about our footwear and we don't prescribe our shoes for any treatment routine—nor do we guarantee any results. That being said, we have heard several customer success stories and we hope you'll consider this natural method if you're trying to recover from bunion pain.

The earlier a bunion is treated, the more likely it can be relieved. McClanahan also warns that the longer feet are deformed by tapered shoes, the less effective treatment will be. In severe cases, surgery may end up being the only option. It is worth noting, however, that many traditional podiatrists shun the idea of treating and curing foot pain by restoring natural movement simply because these methods are relatively new and challenge traditional thinking. If you are interested in seeking alternative treatment or getting another opinion based on natural foot function, then you may have to do your work finding a podiatrist who supports this view.

For more information about Dr. Ray McClanahan and his practice, visit the Northwest Foot and Ankle Website. We also recommend these articles:

Watch this video to see Dr. McClanahan explain bunion causes and treatment options in more detail:

Disclaimer: we are excited to share the information above, which conveys the research done by Dr. McClanahan at NW Foot and Ankle. This article reflects the stories we've heard from many customers who have successfully treated bunions without sugery and also supports our philosophy of minimal shoe design that encourages natural foot function, but please keep in mind that we are shoemakers and not doctors. As such, we cannot answer questions about an individual's foot pain or prescribe medical advice. We recommend contacting NW Foot and Ankle directly regarding any medical inquiries.

Related Posts:

This post was posted in Foot Health and was tagged with barefoot, natural, pain, shoes, cure, treatment, exercise, massage, relief, treat, bunion, bunions, fix, surgery, Correct Toes

78 Responses to Bunion Treatment Without Surgery - It May be Easier Than You Think

  • Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Oh my gosh! This is the most useful article/video that I have ever discovered on foot problems. I have been doing everything wrong from tight shoe boxes to toe spring shoes causing a hammer toe, falling arches, and capsulitis. This explains everything. I am now on my way to Happy Feet! Thank you Soft Star barefoot shoes!!

    Posted on March 11, 2015 at 1:25 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Thanks Barbara! I'm so glad you found it useful. Best of luck with your foot health!

    Posted on March 11, 2015 at 2:11 PM

  • Fran
    Fran says:

    Thank you for making the most comfortable ballet flats ever. Absolutely loving the shoes. They work great with correct toes for bunions. Any chance of being able to custom make the "Kasual Keita" from the 2012 Soft Star Shoes Playday?

    Posted on March 11, 2015 at 3:06 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Thanks Fran. I'm so glad you like our shoes! Unfortunately, the Kasual Keita didn't hold up well through our testing process because it wouldn't hold securely to the foot, so we abandoned that design. After lots of testing with sandals we finally settled on our current Solstice sandal.

    Posted on March 12, 2015 at 2:09 AM

  • Chante Carre
    Chante Carre says:

    I could never wear flat shoes like this. I have a bunion and a high arch or instep. First of all, I'm not sure I understand why wearing certain shoes would create a bunion on one foot and the other foot is perfectly normal with no bunion at all? I believe it has more to do with heredity than anything else. Second, Im not clear as to why the suggestion to stay away from shoes that have an arch support? My experience with walking in shoes with no arch support hurt my feet because there is not support to my arches! Pain, sheer pain and perhaps eventually cause collapsed arches and flat feet I'm not sure I want to sign up for that.

    Posted on December 7, 2015 at 10:40 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Chante. Sorry to hear about your foot pain. The suggestion to avoid arch supports comes from the idea that such supports act as a crutch that will weaken the foot arch muscles, whereas flat-soled shoes will strengthen the arch. Flat feet and feeling pain from zero-drop shoes is often the result of long-term dependency on the supports. According to Dr. McClanahan, arch strength can be gradually restored so the pain disappears, and this can alleviate many foot pain issues. The key word there is "gradually," as going cold turkey into minimalist shoes may be a shock to muscles that have weakened and atrophied over many years of unhealthy footwear. Check out the video above, or Dr. McClanahan's articles at www.nwfootankle.com for more info.

    Posted on December 9, 2015 at 10:48 AM

  • Nancy Baker
    Nancy Baker says:

    I was thinking that a dr scholls sandal would work well because they force you to grip the sandal wiith your toes. I wore them when I was younger. They really build your calf too. I have a small but growing bunion on my left toe. I am starting to feel the pull in my arch now and want to reverse it. What about dr s cholls for a footwear choice?

    Posted on January 13, 2016 at 6:29 AM

  • Elf Jana
    Elf Jana says:

    Hi Nancy. Actually, sandals, flip-flops, and other shoe styles that force you to constantly grip with your toes can exacerbate and/or cause many foot problems, such as muscle spasms, plantar fasciitis, and even bunions (for more info, check out our post "We're Staging a Flip-Flop Intervention": http://www.softstarshoes.com/live-bare-blog/2015/06/01/were-staging-a-flip-flop-intervention/. Strong feet are great and desirable, but the idea for creating healthy feet is to vary the gripping and flexion movements of the foot as much as possible. This is generally best accomplished by using lightweight, flexible shoes that allow your feet to interact naturally with varied terrain. Thanks for reaching out, and best of luck with your journey to better foot health!

    Posted on January 14, 2016 at 2:41 AM

  • Dewey
    Dewey says:

    The only solution is 100% Natural.

    Posted on February 17, 2016 at 7:29 AM

  • Tanna
    Tanna says:

    Im now confused. Im starting to get a bunion on my right foot. This has come on quick. Went to foot doc yesterday. Told I need orthodics. From my understanding this is arch support. You are saying shoes with no arch support.

    Posted on March 3, 2016 at 4:56 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Tanna. Sorry to hear about your bunion. And yes, this can be very confusing. There are two trains of thought in the world of podiatry... some say you need orthotics and arch support to control how your foot moves, the other says these tools act as a crutch that only makes foot pain and bunions worse in the long run. Our shoes support the latter theory, as does Dr. McClanahan shown in the videos above. Podiatrists of the older school tend to scoff at these ideas because it's not what they were taught, but more and more we hear of people who have used minimalist shoes and correct toes to cure their foot problems without orthotics or surgery... including bunions (even though some podiatrists have told these people that was impossible). We're shoemakers, not medical professionals, and we can't give medical advice so you'll have to decide for yourself which direction to go. If it helps, there are lots of good articles and videos on Dr. McClanahan's website: www.nwfootankle.com. Good luck!

    Posted on March 3, 2016 at 9:03 AM

  • Sheila
    Sheila says:

    Sounds like nobody on this page has a real answer. I have to wear arches because I am knee nogged. The arch support forces my feet to stop rolling inward. I have bunions. They are horrid and ugly. They don't hurt, but my feet are ruined and I will never be able to wear cute shoes again. This runs in my family. I know lots of people who have worn heels all their lives and never had a bunion, It's the luck of the draw. Just wish there were real answers somewhere.

    Posted on March 12, 2016 at 8:14 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Sorry to hear about your dilemma, Sheila. Please understand that for liability reasons we cannot prescribe medical advice, but we can relay the info above from Dr. McClanahan's research... which is an alternative to what most podiatrists would say. We recommend checking out his website at www.nwfootanke.com for more information. Some of his articles discuss supination and pronation, and how strengthening your arches naturally may help prevent your feet from rolling. You may also be interested in this long term study from Dr. Nick Campitelli, in which he documents this kind of progress in one of his patients: http://goo.gl/i4Eef4

    Posted on March 13, 2016 at 9:07 AM

  • Nadine Gallagher
    Nadine Gallagher says:

    Are Birkenstocks good shoes to wear?

    Posted on March 13, 2016 at 10:26 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Nadine. Birkenstocks still have mildly elevated heels and arch supports, so if you're looking for treatment by Dr. McClanahan's method of restoring natural foot function then they aren't as minimal as he recommends. They may, however, be more minimal than many other shoes out there.

    Posted on March 14, 2016 at 9:09 AM

  • Victoria
    Victoria says:

    I am a right leg amputee since birth and have been over compensating, gripping ect.. on my left foot my entire life. I now am in my 30's and have a very large bunion on my large toe and my pinky toe is starting to turn inward now. I have been forced to wear unsupportive, flat shoes all these years as I could not wear any sort of heel with my rigid prosthetic foot. My big toe bunion has been building since I was a kid. I am now just starting to have real pain in it. I recently got some more supportive clarks shoes and my pain nearly goes away when I am in the supportive shoes and if I wear my usual flat, thinner sole shoes my foot really hurts. In this instance, do you think I am doing damage to wear these more supportive shoes? Thanks!

    Posted on March 21, 2016 at 8:03 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Victoria. I'm sorry to hear about your foot pain. Your situation sounds very unique and I'm sorry to say we're not qualified to give you a medical opinion on what would be best. You may want to research the articles written by Dr. McClanahan found at www.nwfootankle.com or call his office for a professional opinion.

    Posted on March 21, 2016 at 12:06 PM

  • Jane V.
    Jane V. says:

    While some people ''May" be born with foot deformities and such.... I believe that 'most' people who have bunions, have them because of the shoes they wear.

    Even before reading this, I had already made and came to this conclusion... Because of foot binding... I learned about it in school, and I saw how these women had their foot shaped to the ridiculous shoes their husbands and basically society made them wear... It was awful!! But their foot without the shoe on still had the shoe shape...

    So it makes sense that shoes in fact CAN deform ones foot....

    However, if you are truly trying to help put others in this regard... My question is, why on earth are your prices sooo ridiculously high?

    Your cheapest price on flats are 120??? Are you serious??? At 80 I'd still think it be a high price, but I'd be willing to pay just to try them.... But 120??? And that's the lowest??? That's insane!! As if they had real gems or gold in them??

    Your intentions are good, and smart, but in the end it's more of a rip off to people more than a "help".

    Posted on April 10, 2016 at 12:17 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Jane. I'm glad you found this post informative. Regarding the cost of our shoes, that's unfortunately the cost of handcrafting shoes entirely in the United States and paying American workers a living wage. We actually have a much smaller profit margin compared to most shoe companies with overseas manufacturing, which is necessary for us to keep our prices as low as they are and stay competitive.

    Posted on April 11, 2016 at 2:13 AM

  • Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    I think they are worth every cent. It is good quality, good craftmanship, and they cured my feet completely! I had bunions, and weakened sole that hurted like hell. I wore the orthopedic support etcetera, and my feet weakened even more. I gradually went to minimal shoes, so my foot could regain their strenght. My misformed toes went straight again, and the pain in the bottom of my feet is gone. I can walk flat for hours, no pain. Even my lower back pain dissapeared. For me these shoes are expensive too, even with high shipping costs and extra import taxex, I have to save for them before I can order, but again I say: they are worth every cent.

    Posted on April 14, 2016 at 12:12 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Thanks Kathleen! I'm so glad to hear that you were able to find relief for your pain!

    Posted on April 14, 2016 at 9:07 AM

  • Dena
    Dena says:

    I never remember ever developing a bunion but I do know I walked on my tippy toes for the first 2 years of my life. My bunion is pretty severe and I also have very high arches so shoes without arches only make it more painful

    Posted on April 19, 2016 at 12:35 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Dena. So sorry to hear about your bunion! According to Dr. McClanahan, minimalist shoes without arches may help, but it is a slow transitioning process that should not be done quickly (as you seem to already know). We recommend reading more of his articles at www.correcttoes.com for more info.

    Posted on April 20, 2016 at 11:53 AM

  • Laura Rodriguez
    Laura Rodriguez says:

    Can the correct toes and minimalist shoes really help me? I have two big bunions - my left bunion is really severe although either usually hurt on their own. However, the past year I have been prone to torn ligaments in my left calf/foot. I figured it was a result of misalignment because of the bunions. At 61, I have been contemplating bunion surgery but hate the idea of being off my feet for weeks. I am very active - I work 4 miles daily plus 20 minutes of jumping on a rebounder and 30 minutes of gentle yoga. I just don't know if the suggestions above will help someone like me with truly severe and unsightly bunions the past 8 years or so. I have been using orthotics in my athletic shoes but clearly, they haven't prevented the bunions from worsening. I sure would like to avoid surgery though!

    Posted on April 21, 2016 at 10:58 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Laura. We've heard many success stories from people who have used Correct Toes with minimalist shoes, but keep in mind that we're not medical professionals and cannot prescribe treatment or make any promises. Please check out the wealth of info at Dr. McClanahan's websites for more details on treatment options: www.nwfootankle.com and www.correcttoes.com

    Posted on April 21, 2016 at 2:55 PM

  • Marilyn
    Marilyn says:

    How would these shoes work on extensive travel walking that would include uneven surfaces, cobblestones, and gravel?

    Posted on April 22, 2016 at 1:35 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Marilyn! We hear from many of our fans who travel around the world in our shoes and claim they're great for keeping feet healthy on long walks or hikes (including trips of several weeks on hiking trails). Your comfort level may vary, however, depend on how adapted you are to minimalist shoes. If you're accustomed to wearing heavily cushioned shoes, they it may be painful at first to wear thin soles on gravel or similar surfaces. We strongly recommend taking the time to gradually strengthen your feet by wearing our shoes or walking barefoot a little every day before taking on a long expedition. People have different results with this, so if you're not accustomed to minimalist shoes then please take it slowly and try our shoes out on gravel at home before jumping into them a long trip.

    Posted on April 25, 2016 at 12:01 PM

  • Pam
    Pam says:

    Besides having bunions on both feet, I have a Mortons neuroma on 1 foot. Because of the neuroma, I have to wear shoes with a lot of cushion on the bottom to avoid pain. Will any of your shoes to help correct bunions also be good for the neuroma?

    Posted on April 30, 2016 at 7:32 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Pam. Bear in mind that we're shoemakers, not doctors, so we're not authorized to prescribe medical treatment. Having said that, we have heard of people overcoming neuroma pain by using Correct Toes toe spacers with our shoes. It happened very recently with one of our staff members. The theory is that tight shoes with tapered toe boxes and elevated heels all contribute to pinching the nerves in your toes. The toe spacers and spacious, flat shoes help relieve that compression and improve circulation. We can't emphasize enough, though, that if you consider this kind of treatment then the transition to minimal shoes and Correct Toes should be done GRADUALLY. Please refer to this article about neuromas by Dr. McClanahan for more info: https://nwfootankle.com/foot-health/drill/3-Problems/30-Neuroma

    Posted on May 2, 2016 at 9:10 AM

  • Steve
    Steve says:

    I have been doing the stretches. I work in manufacturing and have to wear steel toes in concrete. I wear Keens. Hope this is a good brand.

    Posted on May 3, 2016 at 6:58 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Best of luck, Steve!

    Posted on May 4, 2016 at 4:56 PM

  • Bert Loehrer
    Bert Loehrer says:

    I can't tell you the pain I feel from a callus 1.5 " behind my center toe. I have terrible bunions. I was told by a podiatrist that my bunion is causing pressure on the center of my foot and causing the callus. It is thick and hard and painful. I have Crohns and gastritis and I can't think about foot surgery and farm at the same time. Do you have an idea. It seems strange that a podiatrist who comes to my local hospital says he can do this surgery. I would think a surgeon would be more trust worthy. I appreciate anything you have for me. I am wearing oversized shoes now and cut a hole under the callus. I trim it once a week conservatively.

    Posted on May 25, 2016 at 10:06 PM

  • Fio Weaver
    Fio Weaver says:

    I am considering foot surgery for my bunions, but I dread the long recovery. If I try your method, could I wear the toe spacer at night only, or is it better 24hrs/day? Would your shoes accommodate the spacer?

    Posted on May 31, 2016 at 2:22 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Fio. We're glad you found us! Dr. McClanahan, who invented the Correct Toe spacers, recommends wearing them as much as possible for maximum effect, though he also adds you should gradually build up to wearing them a little more every day as they can hurt while your feet adjust to them. You may want to contact his staff directly for more details (contact info found at www.correcttoes.com). As for our shoes, we have many models that work very well with Correct Toes. You can see a list of them in the details on our Correct Toes product page (http://www.softstarshoes.com/correct-toes-spacers.html). Also, Dr. McClanahan's staff has a list of shoes rated for how well they work on their own website (also www.correcttoes.com). Good luck!

    Posted on May 31, 2016 at 3:33 PM

  • Annemette
    Annemette says:

    I'd just like to say that I have bunions on both my feet and I have never worn high heels or narrow shoes, ever! I am 42 and they started developing in my 20's.
    I guess I just want to say that not all bunions are caused by footwear and so can't be cured by footwear.

    Posted on June 1, 2016 at 1:05 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Annemette. It's true that some people develop bunions even without tight-fitting shoes, but according to Dr. McClanahan they are a very common and under-recognized cause. Having said that, it appears that even seemingly loose-fitting shoes can have this effect. Some people are just more susceptible than others. You may not want to disregard Dr. McClanahan's non-invasive treatment method too quickly, as it could still be useful for you. We recommend contacting his staff at www.correcttoes.com for more info.

    Posted on June 2, 2016 at 9:37 AM

  • Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Hi there

    My 8 year old daughter has started to form bunions on her feet. It's at the very early stages. She is seeing a podiatrist who has recommended orthotics. I am wondering if the correct toes are appropriate for her age and what shoes you would recommend for that age. She usually wears sneakers and I try buy New Balance as I hear it's one of the wider fitting sneakers. I'd be happy to hear any other suggestions.

    Posted on June 11, 2016 at 6:03 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Michelle. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's bunion pain. I believe Dr. McClanahan has some guidelines for the use of Correct Toes with children, but we recommend contacting his office directly. We're not doctors and can't prescribe medical advice, though you may find shoes that work for her in our Youth category (http://www.softstarshoes.com/kid-shoes/youth-shoes-size-1-5.html). Please visit www.nwfootankle.com to contact Dr. McClanahan's staff. Good luck!

    Posted on June 12, 2016 at 2:34 AM

  • Carol Powers
    Carol Powers says:

    Bunions are hereditary as per my podiatrist.

    Posted on June 19, 2016 at 3:56 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Carol. As stated in the article above, Dr. McClanahan believes "arthritis, limb length inequalities and genetics" are factors that can all contribute to the development of bunions, though he believes ill-fitting footwear accounts for most cases. The tendency to immediately jump to genetics as a cause and rule out environmental factors comes from the old train of thought that many traditional podiatrists still believe. There's a schism in the world of podiatry today between doctors who believe foot pain can only be treated with orthotics and surgery, and then the new school of thought that believes most foot problems can be resolved by easing off of orthotics (becasue they act as a crutch that only weaken muscles more) and restoring the foot's natural function. Dr. McClanahan, mentioned above, is a strong leader in the newer school of thought and we clearly side with him (though technically it's not that "new" since some doctors have been taking his stance since the 19th century). Even though doctors from the newer school of thought have shown much evidence that people raised in barefoot cultures almost never suffer from bunions, and even though they show before and after photos of people who have cured bunions without surgery, we still see podiatrists from the traditional camp ignoring the evidence and insisting that bunions are only hereditary and can only be treated with surgery. Although we have clearly chosen our side, it's up to you to do your own research and decide which course of treatment you want to pursue. Unfortunately, for many people it can be difficult to find a podiatrist in their area who is willing to treat feet with the natural, non-invasive methods.

    Posted on June 20, 2016 at 8:30 AM

  • Cindy Lewis
    Cindy Lewis says:

    I'm an outlier, I guess, as my bunion's a factor of genetics, rather than girlie shoes. I'm female but have never worn much in the way of heels, only on infrequent, dress occasions. I wear only sensible shoes (often times well-made men's shoes). I strive to buy European or US-made shoes; indeed, most of my shoes are high-quality ones with wide toe boxes and minimal heel (and I just bought some Vivobarefoot Porto Leather Desert Boots, made in Portugal). Still, I have a nagging bunion on my left foot (and a slighter one that I barely notice on my right foot). I want to avoid surgery at all costs, but need some non-invasive but effective treatment. Naproxen sodium works well with flare-ups, but I don't want to take too much of that, in order to avoid other bodily complications. Thanks!

    Posted on June 21, 2016 at 5:51 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Cindy. As we say in the article above, genetics are a factor that can greatly increase your chances of developing bunions. These tips are primarly intended for people who develop bunions through ill-fitting footwear (whom Dr. McClanahan believes to be the majority of bunion sufferers) and unfortunately may not apply to you. Having said that, according to Dr. McClanahan's research, it may not be just tight "girlie" shoes that can promote bunions. There are many shoes that seem to have a wide toe box, but still taper enough to push toes inward. Have you seen the list of Dr. McClanahan's recommended shoes for use with Correct Toes? (https://www.correcttoes.com/foot-help/shoe-list/) If you'd like to pursue a non-invasive approach, then you may want to consult his team for advice: www.nwfootankle.com

    Posted on July 1, 2016 at 2:17 AM

  • Janet Berg
    Janet Berg says:

    If bunions were caused by shoes, people would have them on both feet. They usually don't.

    Posted on July 1, 2016 at 8:06 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Janet. It's actually very common to have bunions on both feet. We see it often among customers coming to us for relief.

    Posted on July 1, 2016 at 9:06 AM

  • Norma
    Norma says:

    I've worked from home for most of the last 12 years and spend most of my time barefoot. Based on this theory I Would have expected my feet to get better not worse.

    Posted on July 10, 2016 at 11:01 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Norma. Bear in mind that Dr. McClanahan believes the majority of bunions are caused by ill-fitting footwear, but as stated in the article above, "arthritis, limb length inequalities and genetics" can also play a role. I'm curious if you tried toe spacers like Correct Toes. We're not doctors and are not qualified to diagnose your condition, but you may want to contact Dr. McClanahan's staff for more resources: www.nwfootankle.com

    Posted on July 11, 2016 at 7:21 AM

  • kaliyah
    kaliyah says:

    Hi i am 14 years old and i have bunions on both feet though one toe is worse than the other. Ive tried the toe correctors but they dont push my toe back in place it just did as u described. Its from genetics my father and sister have the same issue. If i wore padding under the bunions would that take less stress off of them and make them go away? does wearing flip flops and sandals help? Should i be embarrassed about my feet?

    Posted on July 11, 2016 at 1:24 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Kaliya. I'm so sorry to hear about your foot pain. It must be very frustrating to deal with, but you should never be embarrassed about your feet! (especially for bunions, which are very common) We were excited to share this article as many of our customers have found it helpful and have been able to avoid surgery following Dr. McClanahan's recommendations, but I'm sorry to say we can't answer your questions since we're not doctors ourselves and are not qualified to give medical advice. As the article states, genetics are stil a factor that can make you more likely to develop bunions, though Dr. McClanahan believes ill-fitting footwear is the most common cause and the treatment tips above apply only to those cases. We recommend contacting Dr. McClanahan's offices directly to seek a professional opinion. You can find contact info at www.nwfootankle.com. Good luck!

    Posted on July 11, 2016 at 3:06 PM

  • Alyssa
    Alyssa says:

    Hello. I am 13 and I have bunions on both feet. I have terrible pain on both feet. I also do gymnastics which doesn't make it any easier to try to fix these things. I wear bunion sleeves most of the time and I stretch my bunions but they never seem to get better. I believe the main cause of my bunions is converses. I had a really cute pair of mint green converses but I had to stop wearing them because they hurt my feet. Is there anyway to prevent them from getting worse or stop the pain? Thanks

    Posted on July 19, 2016 at 1:36 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Alyssa. So sorry to hear about your bunion pain! Per the disclaimer above, bear in mind that we're not doctors and are only relaying information published by Dr. McClanahan. You could try his tips above... transitioning to minimal footwear and using Correct Toes to realign your feet, but if you want a professional medical opinion then we recommend contacting www.nwfootankle.com. Good luck!

    Posted on July 19, 2016 at 1:45 PM

  • Karen
    Karen says:

    Hi; I have primarily hereditary bunions; what about toe shoes? A massage therapist recently recommended. I recently bought hoka's at rei as per podiatrist for metatarsal support. They feel great, wide toe box. Could u pls give link to bef aft pics bunions cured sans surgery? Thank you!

    Posted on July 31, 2016 at 6:03 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Karen. Dr. McClanahan does recommend some brands of toe shoes to help restore natural movement for this kind of treatment. You can find a list of his recommendations at www.correcttoes.com. He does warn against heavily-cushioned shoes like Hokas, which may feel good at first but could encourage foot deformality and more pain in the long run. If it's metatarsal support you need, there are stick-on metatarsal pads that can be added to almost any shoe (see tips for using them correctly here: https://www.correcttoes.com/foot-help/tips-and-how-tos/met-pad-placement/). The Correct Toes site once showed before and after photos of bunions treated with Correct Toes, but they have since launched a new site and we're not sure where they are located now. We'll post a link if we find them.

    Posted on August 1, 2016 at 2:24 AM

  • e
    e says:

    Its been my understanding that were not entirely symmetrical and remember growing up one of my shoes would always be more snug than the other. That half or third inch of difference has now caused a bunion on my left foot form forcing it into a smaller shoe rather than going up one size to accommodate both. Im only 30 but its becoming painful and juts out to the point where even wide toed shoes barely fit anymore. Are there any shoes that can reverse this or is pain relief the most they'll provide?

    Posted on August 12, 2016 at 4:14 PM

  • Alisa Newman
    Alisa Newman says:

    Thank you for your post Martin. I want to ask you about arch support. Is it true that little arch support can help my bunions? Because I find article and they say the same.

    Posted on September 18, 2016 at 1:28 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Alisa. I haven't heard about this, and from what I've read from Dr. McClanahan I think he would disagree. Keep in mind that we're not medical professionals and are not qualified to prescribe treatment.

    Posted on September 20, 2016 at 9:08 AM

  • Byron Carrier
    Byron Carrier says:

    I very much appreciate and admire Dr. Ray's free, to-the-point, easily understandable, sensible advice.

    I sought info on my bunion and found solutions and basic understanding also for my Norton's Neuroma and how to help fix both.

    Moreover, he gives me hope he could address my sons' more challenging foot conditions.

    He gently and clearly explains things that some would leave obscure. I admire such generous helpful advice.

    Posted on November 13, 2016 at 12:52 PM

  • Sarah Smith
    Sarah Smith says:

    I have some bunions and I want to get rid of them. I appreciate the advice about how you can use bunion splints or toe spacers to help try to restore a more natural position. Something else to do is to get your bunion looked at by a professional so that you can get personalized advice on how to care for your feet.

    Posted on November 14, 2016 at 10:08 AM

  • Sonya
    Sonya says:

    My Daughter being 18 has bunions on both feet. The doctor has advised an operation which is costly as I don't have medical. please advise to what I can do her feet are so swollen.

    Posted on November 23, 2016 at 5:57 AM

  • Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I would love for this approach to work but it looks to me that the Correct Toes hold the toes in a permanent stretch, beyond the position in a healthy foot that has no deformations. It does not look like a natural position. I'm hesitant to try them because I would be sorry to compound my foot problems.

    Posted on December 21, 2016 at 6:15 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Catherine. I understand that it may seem strange, but if you see photos of feet from people who grow up without wearing shoes you'll see that Correct Toes actually do move feet into their natural position. Big toes that point inward are unnatural deformations caused by conventional footwear. A naturally-developed big toe would point slightly outward, following the line of the outer edge of the foot.

    Posted on December 22, 2016 at 5:11 AM

  • Joy
    Joy says:

    Hi. I've had bunions since I was little. I believe mine was genetics. Now I'm 16 and I don't know what to do because I don't want to do the surgery but I really want my bunions to go. Is there a way to get rid of bunions that didn't come as a result of shoes?

    Posted on February 5, 2017 at 12:25 PM

  • Branka
    Branka says:

    Ballerina flats are no good. They can also cause bunions in later life. They look innocent but don't let those rounded fronts fool you. They can be just as bad as pointy shoes. If there is not enough space for your feet to spread and if the top opening part sits too low on your feet nearer to the toes, that there is not enough coverage that your side toes are literally used as support for the shoe as you walk, cutting into your sides (big toe and small toe), that eventually very sneakily it is the making of a bunion, insidiously.

    Posted on March 10, 2017 at 1:45 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Very true of most ballet flat styles, but a properly fitted pair of minimalist ballet flats used with Correct Toes may be able to reverse the damage. For example, the Correct Toes website reviewed our Ballerine flat and decided that while the regular width was a little tight on toes, the WIDE version qualified for their highest rating: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=94fc7b144d20b2fb386bc6353&id=a3ee606f03

    Posted on March 10, 2017 at 3:11 AM

  • Faith
    Faith says:

    Actually Kybun is a very good brand of shoes for bunion. It's a Swiss brand. I got mine in Singapore & working very well.

    Posted on May 2, 2017 at 11:55 PM

  • Jade Brunet
    Jade Brunet says:

    My brother is finding that his shoes do not fit as well as they used to and is having pain walking. We are wondering if he might have a bunion. It is good to know that arthritis, limb length inequalities, and genetics could be reasons for bunions. I did not know that toe spacers and bunion splints could be used to help solve the problem. I will share this information with my brother.

    Posted on June 15, 2017 at 10:31 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Thanks Jade! We hope it works out well for him.

    Posted on June 15, 2017 at 10:53 AM

  • Emergency flats
    Emergency flats says:

    This is a useful video and article in your blog......

    Posted on July 2, 2017 at 11:54 PM

  • Lauren Jones
    Lauren Jones says:

    My friend just adopted a daughter from the islands, and she is realizing that it is extremely uncomfortable for the new member of her family to wear shoes since she is so used to wearing only flip flops. It is good to know that bunions are among the most common and most painful foot ailments out there. Thanks for informing me that a bunion occurs when your big toe points toward your second tow, causing a bump. I will be sure to share this information with my friend, thanks.

    Posted on July 25, 2017 at 11:18 AM

  • Andrew Ross
    Andrew Ross says:

    Do you happen to make shoes for flat and wide feet?cause I have a little bunion problem but I have no arch and my feet are wide.

    Posted on August 2, 2017 at 8:25 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Andrew. We certainly make shoes for wide feet, but people disagree on what you need for flat feet. None of our shoes have cushioning or arch supports, as we believe these act as crutches that prevent arches from forming and strengthening naturally. Our newest design, the Primal RunAmoc, will feature an extra wide toe box that we hope will be very helpful for treating bunions. It will be released in the fall of 2017, but you can read about it here: http://www.softstarshoes.com/live-bare-blog/2017/06/13/new-primal-shoe-style/

    Posted on August 3, 2017 at 11:58 AM

  • Jim Einhorn
    Jim Einhorn says:

    Now have severe pain on left large toe and affecting my walk. I limp as the pain is high. Painful to walk and continues even without walking. First the Dr. said I have gout and blood test revealed normal levels indicating the pain was coming from another problem. The large toe definitely is leaning toward the 2nd. Applied ice and have taken several different medicines prescribed such as Indomethacin and diclofenac . Relief came from indomethacin at first but seems not to help now. Tried Ibuprofen but no relief. I have an appointment in 4 days but in the mean time would appreciate any suggestions. Also applied ice pack. I am a fairly healthy 68 year old man. I wonder if surgery will be necessary. I purchased an over night splint that have applied when sleeping. Dr. did take an Xray that showed signs of a bunion and no signs of arthritis.

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 4:09 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    So sorry to hear about your pain, Jim. We're unfortunately not able to provide medical advice, but you may find some good tips at www.correcttoes.com or www.nwfootankle.com. We wish you a fast recovery!

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 8:56 AM

  • Allison
    Allison says:

    Hi there! Thanks for the awesome tips - I just recently realized that I indeed do have a nasty bunion on my right foot. Not suprising as I was born with flat feet and have problems for a long time. I'm currently working on losing weight and getting into a exercise regime (swimming as it puts less pressure on my joints). I just purchased some lovely New Balance cross-trainers that have a wide footbed but I am also starting to use my prescription orthodics again. I know you said to wear flat shoes but that does not work for my naturally born flat feet. Other than the stretches/pressure - are there any splints or supports that you recommend?

    Posted on September 4, 2017 at 11:04 AM

  • Richard P. Jackson, O.D.
    Richard P. Jackson, O.D. says:

    First of all I must inform you that I am a"Doctor" or an Optometrist. I am supposed to know "nothing" except how to fit glasses and contacts. Well, that is nonsense. I did not go to a Podiatrist for my chronic problems of Dorsal Bunions, and Plantar Faciitis, but was able to read the literature on U-tube and developed my own treatment plan that actually worked. I can report that I have absolutely no heel pain, I have now full lateral motion in my left foot which was always a little smaller than my right foot so the available toe boxes for CW footwear was less of a problem and the bunion and plantar faciitis was never as big a problem. I was able to do this by using toe spaces from China, exercises I got off of U-tube, and Virbam five finger shoes which I wear now full-time. All this happened to me in less than 6 months. I am looking forward to full recovery where all my toes are spaced and my big toe points straight all the time as I walk in perhaps 2-3 more months of my current treatment plan. I found that I AM REALLY MY BEST DOCTOR.

    Posted on September 16, 2017 at 6:59 PM

  • Farzan
    Farzan says:


    I have bought the softstar black leather shoes. I want to come speak to a softstar rep or a doctor like mclanahan to address what shoe type is best for my feet and bunion. Do you have anybody in California or is there anybody you can refer me to? Thank yoi

    Posted on October 3, 2017 at 2:43 PM

  • Su Sie
    Su Sie says:

    It started with Plantar Facilitis of my right foot & now I have bunions on both feet but the bunion on the right foot is worse 5 years ago. Have been seeing a podiatrist for the past 3 years. He suggested to wear orthodics & special wide toe shoes & splints at night. The orthodics & shoes has helped to relieve the pain from plantar facilitis but he said I need to address the bunions otherwise the plantar facilitis cannot be cured. The splints & (toe separators for day time) does not seem to help much. Just wonder what else to do other than surgery. Will try the toe exercises after seeing it here.

    Posted on November 20, 2017 at 9:29 PM

  • Kasondra
    Kasondra says:

    I am in my twenties and have had my bunion as long as I can remember. I am in constant discomfort from my bunion pain and am experiencing residual effects. I am so excited I found this website and hope that I have a pain free foot within the next few months
    Question, is the dislocation permanent? I know you can stretch those muscles, but can you completely reverse the dislocation?

    Posted on March 1, 2018 at 12:00 PM

  • Deborah
    Deborah says:

    Hi. I have long narrow feet and long fingers and toes. Years of my feet pushing forward due to lack of a snug fit, means my toes were hitting the end of the shoe. This happened recently when I was out all day gardening and wearing some wide shoes (Crocs). As my left foot is longer than my right, it has a worse problem.

    Therefore, wide shoes are not always good. I'm pointing this out because many of your customers might need a longer shoe because of long toes. This means the shoe will be bigger, but the foot comparitively shallow, in that the arch will be set further back in the shoe.
    The problem is much more pronounced with a court shoe, which doesn't have ties or another way of holding the shoe correctly in place and stopping the dangerous forward movement which results in hitting the the big toe on the end of the shoe. If there's nothing to stop that, this trauma will happen to the joint, causing swelling and discomfort and the ungainly angle of the toe. Then there is less capacity for movement.

    I urge you to consider that the problem is more complex than just tapering shoes. While the narrowness of my feet is unusual, I've noticed the long fingers and toes issue, or shallow feet issue is very common. It's very important to be supported by the shoe. I often see people wearing shoes with a gap at the back, and they're pushing forward into the shoe. Another reason people develop a bunion on one side or the other is that most feet aren't the same length. If you have one foot pushing to the end of the shoe and hitting the end, or one foot being squashed by the shoe not being long enough, you have variations on the theme. Each are causes.

    After talking with an older friend who had the surgery and having had consultation with a podiatrist, I noticed that a key point was how strongly the first toe was pressing down into the ground. This affects functionality of the foot.

    So I did the logical thing and started stretching leaning on my foot with my weight, and bending onto my toes lifting my heel up, and forcing my big toe back into position....gently! In a stretching and pushing down movement. This has been remarkably successful.

    I also have a shallow foot and weak arches, so I have started another form of exercising my feet every night before bed to strengthen my arches. Apparently with age, people's arches often get weaker and they go up a shoe size. I wasn't going to let that happen to me! My feet are long enough with the long toes...

    Gripping a bead about 3/4 of an inch large with my toes. Picking the bead up, holding it and dropping it to the ground. Repeat.
    This has successfully strengthened my arches and changed the way my foot works and even my posture. My weight is now more evenly distributed. This more even distribution means callouses are not forming on my underfoot like they used to. I've got some side mini bunions and callouses there, but not on the main part of the underfoot. This also means my foot looks better visually.

    I am heartened by your site, which shows my approach has been sensible! I have been able to get results, and now I'm going to perservere...and do that more energetically.
    One problem with bunions is they then become painful if shoes are too tight...If I wear wider shoes then my feet pressed forward, exacerbating the situation. Therefore I wear tie up shoes, or shoes with a cross strap or some other way of keeping those shallow feet to the back of the shoe and NOT pressing forward. The dilemma for me is the lack of narrow fitting shoes.

    Court shoes are badly designed and to be avoided.

    Another problem is with age the natural padding on the sole of the feet becomes compressed. I fixed that by using a flat Chinese device which has wooden rollers, with little soft plastic spikes on it. The soft spikes stimulate the circulation, as you roll your foot over it. At the same time I took a supplement to stimulate collagen production. I also wore insoles to help soften any pressure. This also seems to have worked. Previously I was getting burning sensations in my underfoot and sharp pain. Hoping this might help someone, and also the foot specialists will carefully consider my points.

    A lot of foot issues are commonsense. Look at what the shoes are doing to your feet, and how your foot moves in the shoe, where the shoe is pressing. I like the shoes in here but I'm not sure that the ballet ones aren't too wide. I live in Australia so it won't be fun if I order some and then have to return them....

    Posted on March 4, 2018 at 6:46 PM