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While the name might sound funny, a bony bunion on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint is anything but. A bunion is not just unsightly, it also can be quite painful. This malformation, called hallux valgus, creates uncomfortable pressure as it pushes the big toe into the second toe. Tight, narrow, or high-fashion shoes are often to blame for bumpy bunions, but they’re not the only cause. Keep reading to learn what hurts – and what helps.



Causes & Triggers

A bunion develops because of a pressure imbalance in your foot. This imbalance makes your toe joint unstable. The bones of your big toe begin to shift and angle in toward your second toe. Constant pressure causes the head of your metatarsal (the bone at the base of your toe) to become irritated. It gradually enlarges, forming a bump.

• Pressure, often caused by the frequent wearing of tight, narrow, toe-squeezing shoes, especially high heels

• Poorly fitting shoes of all types

• Family history and inherited foot biomechanics (foot structure or your natural walk)

• Foot injuries

• Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis

• Foot deformities, such as hammertoe and pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia)

Signs & Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of a bunion is a visible bump at the base of your big toe. You may experience pain, swelling and redness around the affected joint. The skin may thicken. Your big toe may angle inward. It may overlap or tuck under your other toes. This can result in corns or calluses.

• Mild, moderate, severe, and/or chronic foot pain

• A noticeable protrusion or visible bump on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint

• Redness, swelling, and tenderness at the joint

• Numbness

• Difficulty or pain when wearing shoes, walking or doing daily activities

• Turned-out, curved, or overlapping toes

• Skin irritation, corns, or callouses at the bunion

• Limited mobility or burning pain when bending the big toe

Tips & Treatment


• Don’t ignore a bunion – it will not go away on its own.

• Seek a proper medical diagnosis to learn about non-surgical and surgical treatment options.

• Switch to shoes that have a wider toe box to help relieve pressure and temporarily ease the pain.

Treatment options depend on the severity of your bunion. You may benefit from shoes that give your toes more space. You may benefit from pads or orthotic devices. You may benefit from medications to control pain and swelling, and from applying ice to your bunion. If these methods are not helpful, a surgical procedure may be needed. Your health care provider can create a care plan that is right for your needs.

• Non-surgical pain relief includes cushioning the area, taping the toes per your doctor’s orders, or adding arch supports to shoes.

• To help calm the pain, your physician may recommend steroid shots in the area of the bunion.

• Surgical options include minimally invasive procedures, such as, percutaneous bunionectomy, which can correct the deformity and:

– Straighten and fix the toe
– Reduce or eliminate pain and swelling
– Improve function and range of motion
– Allow for a fast return to normal activity

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