A bunion (also known as hallux valgus) is a painful condition that affects the front of your foot. The big toe bends towards the second toe, and the bone at its base becomes pushed out to the side. This can cause the bunion, which can create difficulty when walking, which could change your gait and lead to further problems, not to mention they are sometimes extremely painful. 

Smaller bunions, referred to as bunionettes, can also develop on the joint of your little toe.

Bunions are the most common problem affecting the front of the foot in adults. You’re more likely to develop a bunion as you get older, and they’re much more common in women than in men.

You may have a bunion if you: 

  • Have a bulging bump on the outside of your big toe
  • Are experiencing swelling, toe pain, soreness and/or redness to the skin over the bunion
  • Have any corns or calluses which often develop when the first and second toes overlap
  • Have restricted movement in your big toe
  • Have persistent or intermittent pain

If you have a bunion, it can get bigger over time; in doing so, it may cause more pain and make it harder to walk. You may also experience balance problems, making you more likely to fall. Additionally, finding comfortable shoes may become difficult.

Your bunion can become painful when the skin rubs against your shoe. A bursa, which is a fluid-filled space, may form under your skin. Bursitis, which is the swelling of the bursa, can cause pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see a podiatrist as soon as possible.

It is not certain whether tight, high-heeled or too-narrow shoes cause bunions or whether particular footwear merely contributes to bunion development.

However, there are several identified causes of bunions, including:

  • Inherited foot type such as being flat-footed. When your foot rolls inwards as you walk, it can worsen or even lead to bunions. 
  • Injury to your foot can worsen existing bunion pain and even lead to the beginning of the deformity in your foot. 
  • Any injuries or sicknesses such as stroke or multiple sclerosis that can affect the way you walk or change your gait pattern can worsen your bunion pain.
  • Congenital effects (from birth). Bunions can run in families; however, just because a bunion is hereditary doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get a bunion. 

Bunions might also be associated with certain types of arthritis, especially inflammatory types such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Bunions usually don’t require medical attention but can be irritating and sore. See your Footfocus podiatrist if:

  • You are suffering from persistent pain in your big toe or foot
  • You have a visible bump on the joint of your big toe
  • You have restricted movement in your big toe or foot
  • You cannot find a pair of shoes to fit you because of a bunion

If you are experiencing persistent pain in your foot and think it could be due to a bunion, it’s time to visit a podiatrist. Your symptoms are only likely to worsen without treatment as time goes by. 

You should also visit a podiatrist for a professional diagnosis if you experience foot pain after standing or walking for longer periods, after a run or after playing sports and exercising. This could be a sign of a structural problem in your feet and, similarly to bunions, will only worsen over time.

Although there is no medical treatment aside from surgical correction in some cases, we can help alleviate your discomfort and provide advice and guidance on how to prevent bunions from leading onto other conditions.

Some of the best things that you can do to prevent and ease the pain of bunions are:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can put extra pressure on your feet and lower limbs.
  • Use shoe inserts, insoles or orthotics to help position the foot correctly and prevent excess pressure from being placed on your foot from poorly fitting footwear. 
  • Cover your bunion with plaster or moleskin. This will help to prevent any excess rubbing from shoes that may have become too tight. 
  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve some of the pressure and pain. 
  • Choose footwear that fits well and has a large toe box area to provide extra room for the bunion on your foot. 

The team at Footfocus Podiatry are experts at identifying when more complicated conditions are presenting themselves as a result of a bunion. 

These foot concerns can include:

Bursitis: Small fluid-filled pads (bursae) that cushion bones, tendons and muscles near your joints that become inflamed.

Hammer toe: An abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe, causing pain and pressure.

Metatarsalgia: A condition that causes pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot.

Bunions are one of the most common foot problems among adults but can often be avoided if you take care of your feet and follow some of these bunion prevention methods.

  • Choose your shoes carefully. They should have a wider space for your toes to sit comfortably so your big toe does not touch the end of your shoe. Your shoes should not push or squeeze any part of your foot and should also match the shape of your feet.
  • Avoid wearing high heels. High heels put large amounts of pressure on your feet and often force them into an unnatural and uncomfortable position. Try to opt for a more comfortable and supportive option when possible. 
  • Rest your feet. Our feet get a lot of use and support us every day. Listen to your body and take the time to rest yourself if your feet are aching and causing you pain. With that being said, you should also monitor your feet, be sure to keep an eye out for any irregularities and see a podiatrist if something doesn’t feel right.

You can also do stretches to aid in the strength and flexibility of your feet. Some of the best are:

  • Curls – Curl your toes around the towel while sitting on the floor or on a chair and begin to pull the towel towards you by bending your knees. Repeat this for five or so minutes. 
  • Roll – While sitting on a chair, place a cylindrical object like a can or tennis ball under your feet, apply some pressure and begin to roll the length of your feet; try to do this for 2 to 3 minutes per foot. 
  • Pick-up – Place some smaller objects on the floor and then, using your toes, grip the objects and place them in a container. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes per foot.

If you are experiencing sore toes and suspect you have a bunion, book an appointment with one of our friendly and experienced podiatrists. To ensure you maintain healthy feet and wellbeing all year round, book a regular Podiatry appointment so you have the freedom to move, enjoy, grow and do more of what you love. Sign up to our newsletter for more information, offers and foot care advice.