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Updated: Feb 7, 2022

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the side of the foot, just on the joint at the base of your big toe; the joint where your big toe meets your foot, which is called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. A bunion happens slowly over time, and eventually gets bigger and sticks out. It can make your big toe turn in, sometimes so far that it moves on top of the toe next to it.

A bunion is also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. The skin over the bunion might be red and sore. Wearing tight, narrow shoes might cause bunions or make them worse. Bunions also can develop as a result of an inherited structural defect, stress on your foot or a medical condition, such as arthritis.

Bunions affect both women and men, however they are more common in women.

Bunion can also occur near the base of the little toe instead of the big toe. This is known as bunionette or "tailor's bunion." Tailors were known to sit cross-legged for long hours, which put pressure on that side of their feet and led to bunions near their pinky toes.


What Causes Bunion?

There are many theories about how bunions develop, but the precise cause is not known. It is believed that bunions are caused by multiple factors including:

  • Inherited foot type

  • Foot injuries

  • Deformities present at birth (congenital)

Experts disagree on whether tight, high-heeled or too-narrow shoes cause bunions or whether footwear simply contributes to bunion development.

Bunions might be associated with certain types of arthritis, particularly inflammatory types, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

And some people are just more likely to get them because of the way their feet are shaped.

Risk factors

These factors might increase your risk of bunions:

  • High heels. Wearing high heels forces your toes into the front of your shoes, often crowding your toes.

  • Ill-fitting shoes. People who wear shoes that are too tight, too narrow or too pointed are more susceptible to bunions.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Having this inflammatory condition can make you more susceptible to bunions.

  • Heredity. The tendency to develop bunions might be because of an inherited structural foot defect.

Other factors can include:

  • being flatfooted with feet that roll inwards (over-pronation)

  • having a big toe bone that moves more than usual, known as hypermobility

  • age (the incidence of bunions increases with age)

  • conditions that affect both the nerves and muscles such as polio



The signs and symptoms of a bunion include:

  • A bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe.

  • Swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint.

  • Your big toe pointing towards your other toes

  • Corns or calluses — these often develop where the first and second toes overlap.

  • Persistent or intermittent pain along the side or bottom of your feet. This is usually worse when wearing shoes and walking.

  • A burning sensation.

  • Possible numbness.

  • Restricted movement of your big toe if arthritis affects the toe.


Although they don't always cause problems, bunions are permanent unless surgically corrected. Possible complications include:

  • Bursitis. This painful condition occurs when the small fluid-filled pads (bursae) that cushion bones, tendons and muscles near your joints become inflamed.

  • Hammertoe. An abnormal bend that occurs in the middle joint of a toe, usually the toe next to your big toe, can cause pain and pressure.

  • Metatarsalgia. This condition causes pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if:

  • the pain hasn't improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks

  • the pain is stopping you doing your normal activities

  • your bunions are getting worse

  • you also have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Your doctor might refer you to a foot specialist.



Your doctor or a doctor who specializes in foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist) can identify a bunion by examining your foot. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.



Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and the amount of pain it causes.

Conservative treatment

Nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain and pressure of a bunion include:

  • Changing shoes. Wear roomy, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes, like wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole.

  • Padding and taping or splinting. Use over-the-counter, nonmedicated bunion pads. Also, your doctor can help you tape your foot in a normal position. This can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain.

  • Medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help you control the pain of a bunion. Although rarely used in bunion treatment, injections of corticosteroids may be useful in treating the inflamed bursa (fluid-filled sac located around a joint) sometimes seen with bunions.

  • Shoe inserts. Padded shoe inserts can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Over-the-counter arch supports can provide relief for some people; others require prescription orthotic devices.

  • Applying ice. Icing your bunion after you've been on your feet too long or if it becomes inflamed can help relieve soreness and inflammation. An ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) can be held to the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time.

  • Lose weight. Try to lose weight if you are overweight.

Surgical options

If conservative treatment doesn't provide relief from your symptoms, you might need surgery. However, surgery isn't recommended unless a bunion causes you frequent pain or interferes with your daily activities.

Surgery is the only way to get rid of bunions. There are numerous surgical procedures for bunions, and no one technique is best for every problem.

Surgical procedures for bunions might involve:

  • Removing the swollen tissue from around your big toe joint

  • Straightening your big toe by removing part of the bone

  • Realigning the long bone between the back part of your foot and your big toe, to straighten out the abnormal angle in your big toe joint

  • Joining the bones of your affected joint permanently

It's possible that you'll be able to walk on your foot immediately after a bunion procedure. However, full recovery can take weeks to months.

Bunions sometimes come back after surgery. To prevent a recurrence, you'll need to wear proper shoes after recovery. For most people, it's unrealistic to expect to wear narrower shoes after surgery.

Talk to your doctor about what you can expect after bunion surgery.


What Is The Prognosis Of Having Bunion Treated?

The treatments described above are very effective in treating bunion deformities, and the prognosis can be excellent. However, the correct diagnosis is essential to define any underlying associated deformities as well as the bunion severity.


Tips For Proper Shoe Fit

Because poorly-fitting shoes are a likely common cause of bunions, and can worsen an existing bunion, it is important to be sure that your shoes fit correctly. In general, go for shoes with wide insteps, broad toes, and soft soles.

Avoid shoes that are too short, tight, or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than a couple of inches. Higher-heeled shoes put more pressure on the forefoot and increase the likelihood of foot problems or injury.

The following tips will help you choose a shoe that fits correctly:

  • Do not select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe. Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Judge the shoe by how it fits on your foot.

  • Select a shoe that conforms as nearly as possible to the shape of your foot.

  • Have your feet measured regularly. The size of your feet changes as you grow older.

  • Have both feet measured. Most people have one foot larger than the other. Fit to the largest foot.

  • Fit at the end of the day when your feet are the largest.

  • Stand during the fitting process and check that there is adequate space (3/8" to 1/2") for your longest toe at the end of the shoe.

  • Make sure the ball of your foot fits well into the widest part (ball pocket) of the shoe.

  • Do not purchase shoes that feel too tight, expecting them to "stretch" to fit.

  • Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slippage.

  • Walk in the shoe to make sure it fits and feels right. Fashionable shoes can be comfortable.

....making effort to "STAY WELL"


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