An all-around beginner shoe with a stiff profile and a roomy toe box.
With one of the roomiest toe boxes around, the Veloce is the perfect shape for bunions.
The poster child for performance climbing shoes since 2017.
There are so many amazing benefits of bouldering and climbing, but unfortunately, cramming your feet into climbing shoes will do no favors for your foot-modelling career. Of all the foot-related issues that climbers can experience, bunions are one of the most common issues we hear about.
A bunion, medically known as Hallux-Abducto Valgus, is the bony bump that develops beside the big toe joint. This occurs when the metatarsal bone starts to turn outwards, whilst simultaneously, the big toe points inwards, causing the joint to prominently stick out.
If you’ve been climbing for long enough, you’re likely to know what bunions are, and perhaps even know a few climbers that have them. They are extremely common among climbers and affect more than 50% of climbers on both feet and 20% of climbers on one foot. Tailor’s bunions, found on the outside of the little toe are similar, although they are thought to be less common.
Before you start to panic, throw away your climbing shoes, and vow never to climb again, there’s more you need to know.
Can Climbing Shoes Cause Bunions?
While climbing shoes don’t cause bunions, they can worsen their condition. According to Harvard Medical School and Healthline, it is commonly thought that wearing small shoes can trigger bunions, although they are not the underlying reason why they form.
Foot experts believe that your susceptibility to bunions is hereditary, with some foot shapes and structures being more prone to bunions than other. Low arches, flat feet and loose joints all increase the risk of bunions, which can then be triggered by certain types of footwear.
It is thought that high heels are one of the worst shoes for exacerbating the problem, as they place the majority of your body weight over your toes, which are then forced against the front of the shoe. If you think about it, an almost identical scenario occurs when we apply weight on an edge or smear whilst climbing.
Therefore someone with bunions, or feet that are susceptible to them, should consider the shoes they use, and whether they will have a long-term impact on your foot health.
The Best Climbing Shoes For Bunions
In truth, finding the right climbing shoes for bunions isn’t exactly easy. Ideally, climbing shoes need to be tight for maximum performance, but at the same time, you don’t want a shoe that will crush your toes together and exacerbate the problem.
Additionally, a pointed edge at the top of the toe box is a prominent feature found on almost every type of shoe. While this significantly improves your ability to stand on small footholds, it won’t do your bunions any favors.
If you have bunions or are starting to develop them, it is wise to stay away from pointy, aggressive climbing shoes. Instead, try to find shoes that have a wide, square-shaped toe box. Similarly, climbing shoes suitable for roman-shaped feet may also provide a suitable fit for your feet.
While choices are fairly limited here, there are a few climbing shoes we think suit bunion-prone feet.
OUR TOP PICK
Designed specifically for gym climbing, the Veloce gives a roomy fit, especially for people with wide feet. The toe box is considerably square-shaped, providing plenty of room for your toes to relax without feeling cramped, making it one of the best climbing shoes for bunions currently available.
The sticky S-72 rubber from Scarpa is great for smears on walls and large volumes and can be easily resoled by Scarpa’s service, ensuring a long-lasting lifespan. The slightly downturned profile also accommodates more challenging problems, where performance is needed and suits intermediate boulder problems or vertical indoor walls.
These shoes were designed to be super sensitive for those tiny gym footholds, and they are.
BEST FOR COMFORT
Mad Rock Remora
Mad Rock has a great selection of climbing shoes, and a few that are suitable options for climbers with bunions.
The Remora is one of their best models for bunions. This soft slip-on shoe has a particularly wide toe box, with a less prominent point, both of which are ideal features for feet with bunions. We also like that the toe patch rubber isn’t rigid, which allows your toes to space out and enables flexibility when weighting the toe box.
Because of this slipper design, they are also easy to get on and off, helping alleviate pressure on your feet.
Although we probably won’t be seeing anyone climb 9c in a pair of Remoras any time soon, these shoes are more than capable of helping crush hard thanks to the sticky Science Friction rubber on the soles.
Don’t write the Remoras off as a second-rate shoe though. These shoes were favored by a handful of Olympic athletes, like the Mawem brothers, for speed climbing as well as for training sessions.
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
La Sportiva Tarantulace
These shoes, while comfortable, still edge well. Heel hooks and smears feel relatively secure thanks to the 5mm of Frixion rubber. Being lace-ups, the fit can be dialed in to suit the shape of your feet, and remain comfortable enough for the lazy climber to keep them on while belaying.
The Tarantulace would suit beginner climbers or long multi-pitch days.
BEST FOR INTERMIDATES
La Sportiva Soltuion
When it comes to bouldering shoes, or any other type of performance shoe for that matter, it can be difficult for people with bunions. These types of climbing shoes need to be asymmetric, downturned and pointy to allow for laser precision and unparalleled pocket-pulling ability. Unfortunately, that often means they aren’t ideal for bunions.
Favored by many professionals like Daniel Woods and Alex Honnold, the award-winning Solution is a shoe designed for performance. It especially shines in steep overhanging routes. The toe has laser-sharp precision, yet the wide toe box allows for less pressure on the big toe joint. The asymmetric profile also allows for more room for the big toe.
The 3D heel cup fits perfectly and will be great for heel hooks. These shoes will suit sport climbers on overhanging routes, boulderers, and advanced climbers that want a high-performance shoe without torturing their toes.
Our Top 3 Foot Care Tips
In every scenario, prevention is almost always the best remedy. The same goes for your feet; waiting for your problems to worsen might result in pain that keeps you off the rock for longer. Before pain occurs, practicing good foot care will help avoid some of the common issues climbers face.
Bunion pads or corn covers – Examine your feet regularly for signs of corns or bunions developing. Any redness or swelling might indicate the start of these foot problems. Don’t wait until you’re in pain! Slap on a bunion or corn cover to protect the points of contact from friction with shoes.
Take shoes off in between climbs – Climbing shoes are designed to channel power onto the big toes and can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Taking them off while belaying or in between sending boulder problems will go a long way to helping your feet breathe, stretch and recover.
Choose appropriate shoes – Climbing shoes can be uncomfortable and tight-fitting, but they don’t have to be instruments of torture that cut off circulation. The perfect shoes are out there for you, just be patient, and you’ll find one that fits like a glove, and you enjoy (somewhat!) putting on.
What’s the right shoe for you?
In addition to the pairs we’ve listed above, there are more shoes out there that can be comfortable for bunion sufferers. Look for shoes with wide toe boxes, larger widths, asymmetrical designs to give the big toe more room, and leather uppers that will stretch more and conform to the shape of your foot.
REMEMBER: This article is not meant to replace any medical advice. If in pain or doubt, always consult a medical professional.
Staying healthy and pain-free means more time on the rock!