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Treatment & Prevention Tips for Bunions

If the joint that connects your big toe to your foot has a swollen, sore bump, you may have a bunion. It is a common deformity and may be hereditary.

However, bunions can also be caused by trauma or wearing certain types of shoes, specifically, tight or narrow shoes and high heels.

Similarly, shoes that are too tight may also cause a painful lump at the base of your little toe, called a bunionette or tailor’s bunion.

With a bunion, the position of the bones surrounding the base of your big toe becomes altered and more prominent. The overlying skin may get red or tender. Wearing certain shoes may be painful. As a bunion grows, it can result in worsening pain and difficulty walking. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe or cross under it.

In addition, the skin on the bottom of your foot may become thick and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe or the big toe.

An advanced bunion may make your foot look deformed, and if it gets too severe your pain may become chronic. You may even develop arthritis in your foot.
Minimize your chances of developing a bunion:

  • Never wear shoes that crowd your toes or fit improperly.
  • Choose shoes that conform to the shape of your feet.
  • Choose shoes with comfortable insoles and wide toe boxes.
  • Consider having your shoes stretched out professionally.

Use protective pads to cushion the painful areas. If your bunion causes you difficulty walking or chronic pain despite your shoe modifications, you may need surgery. Bunion surgery involves realigning the bones, ligaments and tendons of the foot to improve both pain and function. Your surgeon can help you decide which surgical approach is right for you. Most bunion surgeries are outpatient procedures, and most patients can return to regular shoes in six to twelve weeks.

Jason Lin, MD, is a foot and ankle specialist with Samaritan Medical Group Orthopedics. Visit Dr. Lin’s page for videos about foot and ankle health.