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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