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A bunion, also referred to by the medical term hallux valgus, is a bony bump that forms along the base of the big toe joint. Bunions develop when the toe joint becomes misaligned, pulling the tip of the big toe towards the second toe. This forces the bone at the base of the toe to protrude. When there’s a bunion, the big toe may no longer appear straight and a bump may be visible at the base. Smaller bunions, also called tailor’s bunions or bunionettes, can develop on the pinky toe.

Bunions are more common in women than in men. They tend to develop slowly and progress over time. Bunions can be painful and sore to the touch, and some appear red and inflamed. Ill-fitted shoes can aggravate bunions even further by rubbing and pressing against the bump. Severe bunions can cause so much pain that everyday activities such as walking may become difficult.

In addition to pain and inflammation, bunions can cause a number of symptoms and complications, including:

  • Limited range of motion  The big toe can become stiff from the effects of a bunion. It may be painful and difficult to bend the toe.
  • Numbness Bunions can cause nerve damage, potentially leading to a loss of sensation in the big toe.
  • Corns and calluses Thickened skin, including corns and calluses, can form on and around a bunion as a result of shoes rubbing against the swollen, bulging area.
  • Hammertoes If ill-fitted shoes are worn, bunions can force the toes into tight spaces, squeezing them into unnatural positions. This can lead to hammertoes.
  • Osteoarthritis Bunions can damage the joint at the base of the toe, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.


Bunions form due to misalignment of the joint at the base of the big toe. While there’s no single specific trigger that can lead to bunions, there are risk factors that can increase the chance of developing a bunion, including:

  • Weak foot structure — Genetic structural issues and foot conditions such as loose ligaments and flat feet can alter body alignment and put excess pressure on certain areas of the feet. This may contribute to the development of bunions.
  • Foot injuries — Damage to the feet from injuries can lead to structural changes in the feet, increasing the chances of bunions.
  • Arthritis — Certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause joint damage. This can increase the likelihood of other joint-related issues, including bunions.
  • Uncomfortable shoes — Tight shoes, high heels and pointy-toed shoes that squeeze and cramp the toes may contribute to the development of bunions. Ill-fitted shoes can also aggravate existing bunions, causing them to progress and become increasingly painful and swollen.


While it may be difficult to prevent bunions entirely, you can help manage pain from bunions and reduce progression in a number of ways.

Comfortable shoes  Choose well-fitted shoes with a wide toe box to avoid friction and pressure that can aggravate or contribute to the development of a bunion. Avoid high heels and shoes with pointed toes.

Strengthening exercises  Exercising the feet can help support overall foot structure to relieve discomfort from bunions. Try grasping and picking up small objects between your big and second toe to strengthen the surrounding muscles.

Regular foot inspections  Examine your feet on a regular basis and watch for any changes over time. The earlier you catch a bunion starting to form, the faster you can take steps to slow progression.


There are a number of ways to relieve bunion pain. Doctors usually recommend conservative therapies for managing bunion pain, including:

Icing — If your bunion is painful and swollen, icing can be helpful. However, if you’re experiencing numbness or a loss of sensation in the toe, check with your doctor before using ice.

NSAIDs — Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs can help ease the pain and swelling from bunions. These medications include naproxen, aspirin and ibuprofen.

Splints and toe separators — Some people may experience some relief from using splints and toe separators, which are designed to temporarily improve the position of the toes.

Bunion cushions — Before putting on shoes, apply a bunion cushion to the affected area. Dr. Scholl’s® Bunion Cushions fit directly over a bunion for all-day protection against shoe friction and pressure. Dr. Scholl’s® Bunion Cushions with Hydrogel technology provide instant cushioning to relieve the pain from bunions. The thin, flexible cushions are designed to fit into any shoe and stay in place throughout the day.

See your doctor if conservative methods don’t provide relief and your bunion continues to progress and cause pain. Surgery may be recommended.



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Frequently Asked Questions

How to get rid of bunions

The only way to get rid of a bunion entirely is to have the bunion surgically removed. There’s no true way to cure bunions without surgery. There’s no way to get rid of a tailor’s bunion without surgery either. Surgery to remove bunions is called a bunionectomy. However, there are risks associated with surgery and doctors typically recommend more conservative approaches first in order to manage pain and discomfort. Ask your doctor for advice on what to do for bunions. More conservative measures include wearing properly fitted shoes with room in the toe box, using insoles and cushions to prevent shoes from aggravating the bunion, icing the bunion area regularly and taking over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended by your doctor. If the pain from a bunion is severe or if the bunion is affecting the way you walk, your doctor may recommend surgery.

How to shrink bunions naturally

There is no way to shrink a bunion naturally. The only true way to cure bunions is with surgery. However, there are a number of ways to reduce pain and prevent bunions from progressing without surgery or medication.

  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and provide plenty of room in the toe box and along the sides of the shoes. Avoid high heels and tight shoes that compress or squeeze the feet.
  • Consider wearing orthotics with shoes as they can help position the foot correctly in order to minimize pressure on the bunion.
  • Apply cushions or moleskin to protect the bunion.
  • Ice the affected area several times a day for up to 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight in order to lessen pressure on the bunion when walking and standing.
  • Ask your doctor if a night splint is appropriate for you. Night splints can help place the toe in a proper position, taking pressure off of the bunion. Toe spacers or separators may also be helpful.

What does a bunion look like?

A bunion looks like a big bump located at the outer base of the big toe. The area may appear red and swollen. When there’s a bunion, the tip of the big toe points inward, towards the smaller toes.

How to fix bunions

While there’s no quick or easy fix for bunions, there are ways to relieve bunion pain and discomfort while reducing the risk of progression to a more serious condition. Ask your doctor for advice on how to treat bunions. Most doctors will start with a conservative treatment approach for bunions including:

  • Good shoes – Properly fitted shoes are the first line of defense when it comes to bunions. Avoid wearing high heels or tight shoes that press on the feet.
  • Icing – Apply an ice pack to the bunion several times a day for up to 20 minutes in order to ease swelling and pain.
  • Cushions – Try using bunion cushions to relieve pressure when wearing shoes.
  • Orthotics – Wear orthotics with shoes to help improve alignment and reduce pressure on the bunion.
  • Night splints – Ask your doctor about recommending a night splint in order to improve the position of the toe while sleeping. You might also consider using toe separators or spacers.
  • Massage – Gently massage the area around the base of the big toe regularly to help ease stiffness and improve mobility.

More serious bunions that cause severe pain and make it difficult to walk may require surgery. Bunions cannot be completely corrected without surgery.

Do bunion correctors work?

Bunion correctors which may also be called bunion splints, don’t actually get rid of or reduce the size of bunions. The only true way to correct bunions is with surgery. In some cases, a bunion splint can minimize discomfort by holding the big toe in proper position during sleep or rest. Bunion correctors are usually worn at night or during times of rest since they can’t be worn with shoes. Toe separators and spacers can also be used to help realign the toes and lessen pressure. Ask your doctor if a bunion split is appropriate for you.

Are bunions hereditary?

Bunions can be hereditary in some cases. Some people are more prone to bunions due to the shape and structure of their feet which can be genetic. Feet that have little to no arches and feet with loose tendons and joints may be more susceptible to bunions.

What does bunion pain feel like?

Bunions can cause soreness and pain around the joint at the base of the big toe. There may also be stiffness and swelling in the area. The pain may come and go or it may be constant. Some people also experience reduced range of motion in the joint.

How do you get bunions?

While the exact cause of bunions is not fully understood, there are factors that may increase the possibility of a bunion forming in some cases. These risk factors include:

  • High heels and improperly fitted shoes – Constant pressure from shoes that are too tight, don’t fit right or force the foot into a cramped toe box may contribute to the formation of a bunion.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that causes joint damage, it can increase the chances of joint problems in the foot, including bunions.
  • Genetics – Some people are more prone to bunions because of their foot structure. Those with flat feet or loose tendons and joints may have a higher chance of developing bunions. Deformities of the feet can also make people more vulnerable to bunions.
  • Injuries – Foot injuries can cause structural changes to the foot and joint damage which may increase the risk of bunions.

How do bunions form?

A bunion forms when the joint at the base of the big toe becomes misaligned. When this happens, the tip of the big toe gets pulled at an angle towards the other toes. This then forces the joint at the base of the toe to jut out.

How long is recovery from bunion surgery?

Recovery from bunion surgery usually takes about 6-12 weeks. However, it can take several months to a year for complete healing. Swelling may continue for up to a year following surgery. Recovery time largely depends on the exact type of the surgery performed as well as post-surgical care. Following your doctor’s instructions carefully after surgery is vital for minimizing recovery time and experiencing a positive outcome from the surgery.