FootCareDirect Footcare Resource


Do you have big toe pain?

Bunion is the common term for a medical condition known as Hallux Valgus. Hallux valgus, is where the big toe tilts away from the mid-line of the body, as shown in the illustration below. Bunions appear as a lump or bump that is red and swollen on the side of your big toe. This bump forms when bones of the foot are pushed outward. You can see if your big toe is pointing inward, but an x-ray is the best way to diagnose this condition and determine the best course of treatment.


What Causes Bunions?


There are many possible causes of bunions. In some cases, bunions are genetic. But the primary cause is tight, ill-fitting shoes, shoes that constrict the forefoot over a long period of time, high heels, and constricting forefoot gear. When your shoes don't fit properly, your entire body weight can fall unevenly on your foot, impacting the joints and tendons.

Because women tend to wear tight, pointy toed high heels, women are more prone to bunion development, but men can develop bunions as well. There are many palliative measures you can take to help with the pain of a bunion, but if home remedies don't help you may need to visit a podiatrist and consider bunion surgery.

Types of bunions:

There are several types of bunions. The most common include:

  • Tailor's bunion: A bunion that forms at the base of the little toe instead of the base of the big toe
  • Acute bunion: The growth of bony masses around the toe joints
  • Adolescent bunion: A bunion that develops at the base of the big toe during adolescent years

How is a bunion treated?

Bunion Pad

If left untreated, bunions eventually become painful enough to affect your gait (the way you walk). If you begin shifting your weight to alleviate pressure on your foot, you're at high risk of developing ankle, knee, hip, back, and neck problems from poor alignment.

Ironically, it can be challenging to find shoes that fit right without help from a doctor when you have a bunion. As a result, many patients continue to wear ill-fitting shoes, which in turn can cause the bunion to worsen.

As with most conditions, you can attempt to treat bunions through conservative methods first. There are many things that you can do to lessen the pain associated with this condition:

  • Always wear well-supported, wide toe shoes
  • Avoid pointy-toe shoes, or shoes that pinch your forefoot.
  • Try wearing good insoles in your shoes, or even an orthotic.
  • Use anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, Tylenol, etc. to alleviate pain.
  • Cold compresses can relieve swelling and pain.
  • Soak your foot in Epsom salts, Johnson and Johnson foot soaks, or Dome-Boro type solutions
  • Massage and paraffin bath therapy can be helpful.
  • Support wraps and pads, such as the Jacoby Bunion Splint, are also good palliative measures.

These conservative treatment methods may stop or slow the worsening that is characteristics to bunions and prevent further complications.

Of course, if you have diabetes, vascular insufficiency, arthritis or a neuropathy (where the sensation to the foot is diminished) you should see a podiatrist immediately. A Podiatrist (or Orthopedist) usually will recommend x-rays to determine the exact cause and treatment of this condition. They may recommend cortisone injections and orthotics, which may be helpful for this condition. If these measures don't give relief, often bunion surgery is needed to fully eradicate the pain.

Bunion Surgery

If you are thinking of having bunion surgery, visit our Bunion Surgery FAQ for more information.