Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

A bunion is a bony lump, found on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe. The lump is caused by a deformity of the joint that connects the big toe to the foot. Find out more about how they’re caused and treated.

What do bunions look like?

A bunion looks like a bump on the side of your big toe. You can also get bunions on your little toe. These are called bunionettes. They may be painful, and can form on one or both feet.

What are the symptoms of bunions?

If you have a bunion, you may experience:

  • Pain around the inside of the big toe

  • Redness and swelling around the joint of your big toe

  • Hardened skin or calluses

  • Your big toe might point inwards towards your other toes

  • Difficulty bending your big toe

  • Pain when walking or wearing tight shoes

 People who have bunions may also have trouble finding comfortable footwear and may be at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis in the joint of the big toe.  

What causes bunions?

It’s not certain why some people get bunions, but some things that may increase your risk of developing them include:

  • Wearing poorly fitted shoes

  • Being female

  • Having ‘flat feet’

  • Having a family history of bunions

  • Foot injuries

How common are bunions?

Bunions are very common and develop slowly over time, affecting around 38% of people over the age of 65.

How are bunions diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose bunions by examining your feet and looking for visible changes to your big toe.

How to treat bunions

The only way to completely get rid of bunions is with surgery, but the symptoms of bunions can usually be managed with self-care remedies and making changes to your footwear. Suitable shoes for bunions should be well-fitted and comfortable – enough width for your toes and a low heel.

There are some things that you can try at home to improve your bunion pain. 

  • Use bunion socks or pads – you can use socks for bunions or bunion pads to reduce pain and friction between your shoe and the bunion 

  • Try toe spacers or insoles – these might help improve comfort

  • Use toe bunion supports – there’s no evidence that toe bunion supports or splints are effective in getting rid of bunions, but they may reduce pain temporarily

You may want to use ice on the area, to reduce bunion pain and swelling. You can also take pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

If your bunion pain doesn’t get better with simple changes like changing your footwear, if your bunions are getting worse, or if they’re affecting your daily life, you may need an operation to remove your bunions. The purpose of surgery is to straighten the toe joint as much as possible and relieve pain.


How to prevent bunions

Bunions can’t always be prevented, but one of the most important things you can do to reduce your chances of developing them is to wear shoes that fit well, with plenty of room for your toes to move. You could also avoid wearing pointed or high-heeled shoes which put more pressure on your toes.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important too. Carrying extra weight can put more stress on the big toe joint, leading to bunions.

When should I speak to a doctor?

You should see a doctor if your bunion pain continues after a few weeks of treating it at home, or if you’re having to stop your daily activities because of the pain. You should also let a doctor know if your bunions are getting worse, or if you have decreased movement in your big toe.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to visit a doctor if you have any bunion symptoms as you may be at risk of more serious foot problems or complications. 

A doctor might refer you to see a podiatrist – a medical professional who can help with problems related to the feet and lower legs.


Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi