A bunion forms when your big toe points toward the second toe. This causes a bump to appear on the inside edge of your toe.
Bunions are more common in women than men. The problem can run in families. People born with abnormal bones in their feet are more likely to form a bunion.
Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion.
The condition may become painful as the bump gets worse. Extra bone and a fluid-filled sac grow at the base of the big toe.
This animation shows the formation of a bunion.
Symptoms may include:
- Red, thickened skin along the inside edge at the base of the big toe.
- A bony bump at the first toe joint, with decreased movement in the toe site.
- Pain over the joint, which pressure from shoes makes worse.
- Big toe turned toward the other toes and may cross over the second toe. Corns and calluses develop as a result where the first and second toes overlap.
- Difficulty wearing regular shoes.
You may have problems finding shoes that fit or that do not cause pain.
Exams and Tests
A health care provider can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.
When a bunion first begins to develop, you can do the following to care of your feet.
- Wear wide-toed shoes. This can often solve the problem and prevent you from needing more treatment.
- Wear felt or foam pads on your foot to protect the bunion, or devices called spacers to separate the first and second toes. These are available at drugstores.
- Try cutting a hole in a pair of old, comfortable shoes to wear around the house.
- Talk to your provider about whether you need inserts to correct flat feet.
- If the bunion gets worse and more painful, surgery may help. The surgery bunionectomy realigns the toe and removes the bony bump. There are more than 100 different surgeries to treat this condition.
You can keep a bunion from worsening by taking care of it. Try to wear different shoes when it first starts to develop.
Teenagers may have more trouble treating a bunion than adults. This may be the result of an underlying bone problem.
Surgery reduces the pain in many, but not all people with bunions. After surgery, you may not be able to wear tight or fashionable shoes.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if the bunion:
- Continues to cause pain even after self-care, such as wearing wide-toed shoes
- Prevents you from doing your usual activities
- Has any signs of infection (like redness or swelling), especially if you have diabetes
- Worsening pain that is not relieved by rest
- Prevents you from finding a shoe that fits
- Causes stiffness and loss of movement in your big toe
Avoid compressing the toes of your foot with narrow, poor-fitting shoes.
Coughlin MJ, Anderson RB. Hallux valgus. In: Coughlin MJ, Saltzman CL, Anderson RB, eds. Mann's Surgery of the Foot and Ankle. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 6.
Murphy GA. Disorders of the hallux. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, Canale ST, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 81.
Wexler D, Grosser DM, Kile TA. Bunion and bunionette. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 84.
- Last reviewed on 3/20/2018
- C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is the first of its kind, requiring compliance with 53 standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audit. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial process. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics (www.hiethics.com) and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.