Do people that don’t wear shoes get bunions? Not really.

It’s pretty simple. Researchers who have studied populations of people that don’t wear shoes have found next to no bunions in these people! Various studies have shown 0% of non-shoe wearing populations have bunions (or hallux valgus), while 2 other studies have shown as much as 1.9% (although it should be noted that the people in this study occasionally wore shoes.)

In fact, only 3% of people in non-shoe wearing populations have any kind of foot malady. Contrast that with the 73% of Americans who take the time to report foot pain! (2010 APMA Survey). In my opinion as someone who has studied this stuff my whole life, our modern footwear is almost the sole source of our foot problems.

Are bunions causes by over-pronation? Not really. Unless of course that is caused by a shoe with a tapered toe box (bunion creator) or an elevated heel which causes the foot to roll in in the first place. Supposed “over-pronation” has never been significantly linked to any injury.

Are bunions caused by tight fitting shoes? Absolutely! They’re also caused by supposed well fitting shoes that aren’t shaped like feet (i.e. 99% of all shoes).Most people have never even thought about it, but almost all shoes are shaped more like pizza slices or torpedoes than they are healthy human feet!


Classic American Foot Binding

Nike Pointy
Are bunions caused by high heels? Yes. But they’re also caused by low heels. A heel of any height causes your big toe to move inward, which pushes the bunion out.

Do your feet and bunions a favor—get a pair of shoes that are actually shaped like your feet and that have no heel elevation.  Altra, Lems Shoes, & VivoBarefoot all make great shoes for this!

If your big toe joint is still somewhat flexible, consider Correct Toes to help re-shape your feet over time. Use them while active, like when walking or driving, for best effect.

For more detailed information on the hereditary bunion myth, read this from Dr. Ray McClanahan:

References: (Shows 0% Hallux Valgus or Bunions in Chinese and Indian Populations that don’t wear shoes)

Runner’s World Article with Dr. Ray McClanahan:

A few citations:

Hoffman, P. 1905. Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 3, 105-136.

Lam Sim-Fook and Hodgson, A. R. 1958.  A comparison of foot forms among the non-shoe and shoe-wearing Chinese Population. 7. Bone 7t Surg., 40A, 1058.

Shine, I. B. 1965. Incidence of hallux valgus in a partially shoe-wearing community. British Medical Journal, 1, 1648-1650.

Kato, T. and Watanabe, S. 1981. The etiology of hallux valgus in Japan. Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, 157, 78-81.




  1. Love the premise but do not agree that people who don’t wear shoes don’t get bunions.


    Robert M. Conenello, DPM, FACFAS Global Clinical Advisor, Special Olympics International, Fit Feet Immediate Past President, American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rob I claimed ‘not really’ as to mean very few. I updated the post with some of the research citations of 0% of the populations that don’t wear shoes having bunions. I feel like I’ve read many many of these over the years. To be fair, I also cited the 2 studies that show as much as 1.9% in people that are almost always barefoot, but that likely wore ill-fitting shoes on occasion.


  2. I was the youngest in my family for many years. I have very mild scoliosis. My sister’s hand me down shoes became mine. And they rarely fit correctly, often becoming very tight before getting a wider pair. My feet at adult age now are very short with a high top of foot; almost akin to bound feet.
    I can wear 6 to 6-1/2 Wides which are hard to find. But most often get a 7 to 7-1/2 to accommodate my foot width with the toe box always too long. I walk barefoot a lot and only wear shoes when working part time at Home Depot.
    I’m 67. I’ve had a large bunion on my left foot and smaller one on my right foot as long as I can remember. I never knew the bump had a name. What’s your best suggestion for shoewear?


    1. Thanks for sharing your story Gina…all too common. For working at Home Depot, I would recommend the Altra Torin in wide. It is foot-shaped and will leave your foot in barefoot position, just with plenty of cushioning to make that Home Depot floor feel like you’re standing barefoot on a natural surface like grass. Good luck!


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