foot deformity called bunion deformity

What is a bunion and how can you treat them?

Many people believe they are caused by tottering around in high heels. But the fact is, those stilettos may not totally be to blame for that unwelcome bump near your big toe.

Read on to discover the most common symptoms and causes of these joint deformities along with advice on how to treat them.

What is a bunion?

Bunions are bony lumps that appear on the side of feet, usually by your big toe1.

What are common bunion symptoms?

The first sign of a bunion forming is when your big toe angles towards the second toe2.

As the big toe bends, the bone pushes out to the side. It then sticks out and rubs on your shoe making finding shoes tho fit properly may become a struggle.

The skin on and around the bunion may become sore and callused. You may also experience swelling and pain near the joint in your big toe, especially when wearing shoes.

What causes bunions?

It’s still not known what actually causes these swollen bumps, but several factors can make them worse.

  • Bunions are usually inherited and are more common in women than men3.
  • People with very flexible joints are more likely to develop them.
  • Wearing poorly fitting shoes, narrow or pointed shoes
  • Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout can also cause bunions.

How can you avoid getting bunions on your feet?

If bunions run in your family, there’s no harm in getting your feet checked out sooner rather than later. Your GP can refer you to a chiropodist but you may need to go private if you’re not displaying any signs of having bunions yet.

If you currently do a lot of running, you may be better cutting down and doing a low-impact form of exercise instead. Investing in some custom orthotic insoles to use when running (and going about your day to day life) can help reduce your risk of developing bunions too.

Bunion treatment

If you shave bunions, you don’t need to just accept the pain and discomfort they cause as there are things you can try.

  1. Ice and paracetamol – Wrapping some ice in a tea towel and applying it your bunions can bring temporary relief but you might want to take some paracetamol too.

  2. Wear shoes that fit properly – Say goodbye to stilettos and instead wear shoes that are flat or only have a low heel.

  3. Bunion pads and plasters – You can pick these up from any pharmacy or supermarket. Stick them over your bunions and they’ll stop any rubbing when you’re wearing shoes.

  4. Orthotics insoles – These fit inside your shoes and are designed to help the bones in your feet move into the right position, which should stop your bunions from throbbing as much. However, they do take up room in your shoes so you’ll probably need wide fitting shoes for them to fit comfortably.

Bunion surgery

If you want to get rid of your bunions permanently, surgery is the only option. Doctors will only usually suggest surgery if you’re in a great deal of pain and if the non-surgical treatments listed above haven’t worked.

There are over 150 different types of bunion surgery but the most common involve cutting out the bunion, removing bones from the surrounding toes and inserting screws, wires or pins to hold everything together.

Recovery can take three or more months and you’ll be immobile for most of this time as your feet will be swollen and you’ll need to keep them raised. Bunion surgery is successful for around 80% of people but there can be complications for 1 in 10. You may still be left in pain, your bunions could come back and you might need further surgery.

Last updated: 28 February 2020