So, what exactly is a bunion?

Do you ever feel discomfort around your big toe or notice a bony bump at its base? You might be dealing with a bunion.

May 1, 2024

Also known as hallux valgus, this common foot problem can lead to significant pain.

What is a bunion?

Basically, it’s your big toe deciding to cosy up too close to its neighbour, pushing against it. This movement puts pressure on the joint at the base of your big toe and over time, causes the joint to stick out, creating that noticeable bump we call a bunion. As this develops, it can change your foot’s structure, pushing your big toe inward.


The exact cause is a bit of a mystery, but a few key factors play a significant role:

  • Genetics: Just like eye colour, if bunions run in your family, you're more likely to develop them. Some foot shapes and structures are simply more prone to this condition.

  • Inflammatory conditions: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can inflame and deform joints, including those in your feet, making bunions more likely.

  • Footwear: Here’s a biggie - shoes that are tight, narrow, or high-heeled can push your toes into an unnatural position. If your shoes force your toes into each other’s space, you're setting the stage for a bunion if you’re already at risk.


Bunions are sneaky and develop gradually, so keep an eye out for:

  • A prominent bump on the outside base of your big toe.

  • Redness, swelling, or soreness around this joint.

  • The development of corns or calluses where your first and second toes overlap.

  • Pain that can be persistent or come and go.

  • Difficulty moving your big toe, especially if arthritis is involved.

If you notice these symptoms, especially pain that interrupts your daily routines or trouble finding comfortable shoes, might need to see a podiatrist.


While surgery is an option for severe cases, many people manage their symptoms and slow a bunion’s progression with simpler, non-invasive methods.

  • Proper footwear: Choose shoes with a wide toe, soft materials, and low heels to ease pressure on the bunion.

  • Orthotics: Custom inserts designed by a podiatrist can distribute your weight more evenly.

  • Pads and cushions: These can protect your bunion from your shoe’s friction.

  • Healthy weight: Keeping your weight in check can lessen the pressure on your feet.

Preventing bunions

While you might not be able to prevent a bunion entirely, especially if you’re genetically predisposed, you can take steps to minimise their impact:

  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Regular foot care and check-ups, especially if you have a family history of bunions.

    Source: healthdirect
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