Learn how to manage the pain

Your questions answered

Bunions can be very painful, as well as difficult to live with. Here’s our guide to the causes, symptoms and possible ways to help manage them.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony deformity of the joint that forms at the base of the big toe, and can make walking painful.

Signs of a bunion

If you have a bunion you may have:

  • Pain and swelling around the joint of your big toe, which can feel worse by pressure from wearing shoes
  • Difficulty in getting shoes to fit
  • Hard and red skin between your big toe and second toe as they overlap

Some of these symptoms may be caused by other foot conditions, and if you are concerned about your bunion you should speak to your GP.

The causes

The exact cause of bunions isn’t clear. They often run in families and are far more common in women than men. Sometimes bunions are also associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Ways to help manage bunions

Once a bunion forms the only way to remove it or stop it from getting worse is surgery. However, many people manage their bunions in the short term with non-surgical options such as:

  • Painkillers – for example, ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • Comfortable footwear – avoiding high heels and overly tight shoes is essential
  • Bunion pads – to help protect the bunion from footwear
  • Orthotic insoles – placed inside shoes to help realign the toe
  • Ice packs – to help with swelling and pain

If a bunion is severe and causing pain then surgery may be the best course of action. Speak to your GP to assess whether surgery could be a suitable option for you.