What Are Bunions? Signs, Causes, & Treatments (2024)

A bunion refers to a bony bump at the base of the big toe. The most common form of bunion, “hallux valgus,” is formed by a change in the alignment of the bones and not from bony growth.

A small bump is common and may be part of the normal foot shape. With a bunion deformity, the bones around the great toe have shifted and the metatarsal bone is now pushing out against the skin, creating a more prominent and sometime painful bony bump.

What are the signs and symptoms of bunions?

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
  • Corns or calluses that often develop where the first and second toes rub against each other
  • Ongoing pain or pain that comes and goes
  • Limited movement of your big toe

In general, these conditions are differentiated based on your symptoms, an examination, and X-rays.

What causes a bunion?

There are several reasons you might develop a bunion.

  • In general, a bunion develops slowly over years. The bones in the foot shift slowly over time. Certain ligaments stretch out while others tighten. This causes the deformity to occur.
  • Shoes that are tight around the toes such as women’s heels are a risk factor as they push the great toe into the bunion position. This may be one reason that bunions are more common in women. About 10 percent of cases are in men, however, and there is a hereditary component possibly linked to having looser ligaments.
  • Less commonly, children or teenagers may develop bunions from the bones growing primarily into the turned position.
  • Even less commonly, they can occur after a traumatic injury to the ligaments around the great toe.

Do bunions get worse with age?

Bunions develop gradually over time. Without the right care, like changing your footwear or using orthotics, bunions can get worse over time. As a person gets older and ages or gains weight, our feet spread and that worsens the problems already in place or triggers the development of bunions.

Why doesmy bunion hurt?

A number of problems can contribute to a painful bunion:

  • arthritis from the joint not being aligned correctly
  • the bone pushing on a sensory nerve
  • pain in the ball of the foot as a result of a change in the way the foot moves
  • the great toe rubbing against the smaller toes
  • external pressure from footwear

Those who have a bunion without pain are simply lucky they haven’t developed any of these problems. If a bunion is not painful, it does not require treatment.

Do bunion splints work?

There is no solid evidence to show that bunion splints or toe spacers can reverse or cure a bunion deformity. Bunion splints and toe spacers, however, are inexpensive and low risk and can provide some symptom relief.

What can I do to treat a bunion?

First, try simple changes such as wider shoes and toe spacers. If that has not helped, then you may want to discuss the option of bunion surgery. Bunion surgery is usually an outpatient surgery that can be done with sedation and local anesthetic.

What is the recovery for bunion surgery?

Recovery involves crutches for a couple of weeks and a medical shoe for at least eight weeks until the swelling is down. Most people can walk on their heel right away but can’t put pressure on the front of their foot for two weeks.

Are there ways to prevent bunions?

While not all bunions can be prevented, there are ways to reduce your risk for developing bunions:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.
  • Avoid high heels and shoes that push the toes together.
  • See a specialist if you have a severe sprain of the great toe that does not improve in a couple days.
  • Keep track of your feet and monitor any changes over time, especially if foot or ligament conditions are hereditary.

Bunion treatment and foot care near you

If you have a bunion or other foot condition, our foot and ankle specialists in the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute in Rhode Island can help.

What Are Bunions? Signs, Causes, & Treatments (2024)


What is the main cause of bunions? ›

Bunions are usually caused by prolonged pressure put on the feet that compresses the big toe and pushes it toward the second toe. Over time, the condition may become painful as extra bone grows where the base of the big toe meets the foot.

What is bad for bunions? ›

Wearing shoes that don't fit

High heels aren't the only poor shoe choice you can make. Any shoes that are too big, too small, too narrow, or too pointed cause rubbing and pressure on your bunion.

What are bunions and how can they be treated? ›

Bunions are bony lumps that form on the side of the feet. Surgery is the only way to get rid of them, but there are things you can do to ease any pain they cause.

Who is most likely to get bunions? ›

According to the teams at JAWS Podiatry, despite the frequency of their occurrence in almost one out of every three Americans, bunions are often misunderstood. They are 10 times more likely to develop in women than men because of their choice of shoe wear.

How do I stop a bunion from growing? ›

Bunion prevention and management: 5 things to start doing
  1. Make sure your shoes are the right size and fit. ...
  2. Avoid wearing high heels every day (or retire them altogether) ...
  3. Rest your feet. ...
  4. Do bunion stretches and exercises to strengthen your feet. ...
  5. Monitor your feet for changes.

How can I shrink my bunions naturally? ›

  1. Massage and Exercise Your Feet. One of the simplest ways to treat your bunions without surgery is to, in fact, exercise your feet. ...
  2. Take a Paracetamol. ...
  3. Soak Your Feet in a Foot Bath. ...
  4. Ice Your Feet. ...
  5. Put Your Feet Up! ...
  6. Try Castor Oil. ...
  7. Try Bunion Pads. ...
  8. Try Bunion Splints.
Jul 20, 2022

Do bunions get worse as you age? ›

Bunions develop gradually over time. Without the right care, like changing your footwear or using orthotics, bunions can get worse over time. As a person gets older and ages or gains weight, our feet spread and that worsens the problems already in place or triggers the development of bunions.

Can you straighten a bunion without surgery? ›

In most cases, bunions can be treated nonsurgically. One of the podiatrists from our team can examine your bunion(s) and recommend a conservative treatment which includes one or more of the following: Custom shoe orthotics (inserts) that relieve pressure on the joint and align your weight in a more beneficial way.

Can bunions cause other problems? ›

Due to misalignment, bunions can put more strain on your knees and hips. This strain can result in knee osteoarthritis, hip bursitis or IT band syndrome, leading to pain and limited mobility in these areas.

Is walking good for bunions? ›

The answer is yes and no. In some cases, barefoot walking can be helpful for bunion management. For example, if your bunion is really painful or tender you should always try to wear shoes that fit well and don't rub against it when walking around.

How painful is bunion surgery? ›

Is the surgery painful? The amount of pain experienced after bunion surgery is different from one person to the next. Most patients will experience discomfort for three to five days. If you closely follow your foot and ankle surgeon's instructions, you can help minimize pain and swelling after your bunion surgery.

How do doctors get rid of bunions? ›

For a severe bunion, surgery may involve removing the enlarged portion of the bone, cutting and realigning the bone, and correcting the position of the tendons and ligaments. Arthritic bunion or big toe joint. If the joint is damaged beyond repair, as is often seen in arthritis, it may need to be fused.

Does walking barefoot make bunions worse? ›

But keep in mind that walking barefoot will bring out any shortcomings in your biomechanics in the way you stand and walk. So, if you have poor alignment, walking barefoot may aggravate your bunion.

Does walking make bunions worse? ›

Many people, when they walk or run, push off the side of their foot, versus pushing forward, which can exacerbate bunions,” she explains. A PT can work with you to help you practice moving from the ball of your foot to pushing off your toes.

What causes bunions to worsen? ›

Wearing pointy shoes and high heels can exacerbate the pain of a bunion and cause the bunion to worsen over time. Regardless of how a bunion forms, every bunion needs to be medically evaluated — including smaller bunions that don't cause pain.

Is walking barefoot good for bunions? ›

Going barefoot is ideal in the beginning stages of bunions. When barefoot, the joints of the toes will get stronger, an important part of good foot health.

Can you reverse a bunion? ›

Bunions can't be reversed, and unfortunately, they don't go away on their own. Once you have a bunion, it will likely continue to grow over time. Luckily, many people don't need to have surgery to treat their bunions. It's possible to find pain relief through home remedies, orthotics and other treatments.

Do bunions get worse with age? ›

Bunions develop gradually over time. Without the right care, like changing your footwear or using orthotics, bunions can get worse over time. As a person gets older and ages or gains weight, our feet spread and that worsens the problems already in place or triggers the development of bunions.

Are bunions caused by stress? ›

Additional causes of bunion development include: Overpronation: Having a low arch or uneven weight-bearing, making the toe joint unstable. Hypermobility: Having a big toe bone that moves more than usual. Foot injuries, repetitive stress, and overuse injuries.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated:

Views: 6051

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.