The Lowdown on Bunions

Most of us spend a lot of time on our feet, so it's important to take care of them. One of the most common foot problems many of us have is bunions. So what are these odd-looking, painful bumps? And, more important, how do we treat them? Learn the answers to those and other common questions about bunions.

Q: What is a bunion?

A: A bunion is a hard, bony bump that forms on a foot. Most often, bunions appear on the bottom, outside edge of the big toe. They can also occur on the outside of your foot next to the little toe. Bunions can lead to sore or swollen toe joints, as well as other sore spots on your feet.

Q: What causes bunions?

A: Bunions occur when the big toe joint bends inward toward the other toes. The bunion bump itself is a deformity in the bone on the outside of the toe.

Q: Who is at risk of getting bunions?

A: These uncomfortable bumps affect about a third of all Americans. You're at higher risk of developing a bunion if you:

  • Are a woman.
  • Are older.
  • Have arthritis or flat feet.
  • Have a job that puts a lot of stress on your feet.
  • Have a family history of bunions. You don't inherit the bunions themselves, but instead a type of foot that is prone to forming them.
  • Wear shoes that are too tight or force your toes to squeeze together.
  • Walk in a way that puts pressure on the joint at the base of your big toe.

Q: How do you treat bunions?

A: Bunions tend to get worse if left untreated. So it's important to pay attention to them.

If you often wear shoes that hurt your bunion, your first step may be to buy some new, more comfortable footwear.

There are other, simple home treatment options too. Apply an ice pack if your foot is sore. You can also use a bunion pad or place a spacer between your big toe and the second toe. If your bunions get worse, talk to a podiatrist about other options. These may include physical therapy; medications; or shoe inserts, which can make walking more comfortable.