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Article reviewed by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM

What is a Bunion (Hallux Valgus)?

A bunion is a foot condition where the first metatarsal bone turns outward, while the big toe does the opposite and turns away from the midline of the body and curves inwards toward the other digits, or toes. As a result, the joint protrudes out, creating a bump on the medial side of the foot.

Bunion Symptoms

  • A protruding bump at the base of the big toe.
  • Thickened skin on the bunion.
  • Corns or calluses. When the big toe turns inwards, it may rub against and overlap the second toe creating friction during movement.
  • Swelling and redness around the big toe joint.
  • Pain and discomfort from the bunion.
  • Faulty foot biomechanics such as overpronation
  • Dysfunction of the big toe resulting in restricted movement.
About Bunions

Causes of Bunions

There can be several causes for bunions, some that may be prevented, while others are not.

  • Inherited bone structure and shape of the foot
  • Shoes. Shoes with a narrow design shape can put excess pressure on the big toe joint creating bunions. Specifically, styles with a narrow or pointy toe box such as heels or dress shoes are considered culprits of the condition. It is also important that shoes fit correctly – they should be the correct width and size for your foot.
  • Flat feet that typically tend to pronate walk on the inside of their feet, placing increased pressure on the big toe.
  • Arthritis can sometimes damage the cartilage with the joint leading to bunions.

Prevention of Bunions

As described above, a bunion is a bone deformity and will therefore not resolve on its own. Depending on how much the bone protrudes, in most cases treatment involves minimizing pressure and pain as well as preventing the progression of the deformity.

Common bunion treatment involves the following:

  • Bunion Shoes
    • Wearing shoes that have a wide last design, extra depth and wide & round toe box. This ensures a pressure free environment and allows for maximum toe movement.
    • A soft padded interior offers gentle contact with the skin and bunion eliminating friction and inflammation. Many orthopedic brands offer shoes in extended widths, which is always a plus.
    • The best footwear for bunions should be designed with proper arch support to help align the feet, prevent overpronation and straighten the toes.
    • Shoes with uppers made from stretch and flexible fabrics are recommended as they can conform to the unique shape of the foot, hence bunion, without placing pressure on it.
  • Nighttime splints for young individuals with bunions help align the big toe. This modality is sometimes effective since the bones have not completely formed and may still be pliable.
  • Oral steroids such as prednisone or non-steroids pain relievers such as ibuprofen may also help alleviate pain and swelling.
  • Cortisone injections can be administered to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Protective padding, medical or kinesiology tape can be wrapped around the bunion to shield it from friction and further injury, while providing soothing comfort.
  • Individuals with severe bunions might have to resort to surgery to have it removed. Recovery from bunionectomy is often painful and long.