Four Telltale Symptoms of a Bunion

Bunions develop slowly, so it may take years to notice changes in your foot. Left untreated, bunions can make it hard for you to walk or to find shoes that fit.

Bunions might look like bone growths, but they’re actually a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This deformity occurs when the big toe is pushed inward and the metatarsal bones turn outward. 

You’re at higher risk of developing a bunion if you’re female, wear tight shoes, have arthritis, or participate in sports that involve repetitive movements.

Bunions develop slowly, so it may take years to notice changes in your foot. Left untreated, bunions can make it hard for you to walk or to find shoes that fit.

Our podiatry experts at Bay Area Foot Care, with 10 locations in and around San Francisco, California, regularly treat patients with bunions, corns, hammertoes, and other foot problems. Here they share the most common symptoms of bunions.

1. A bulging bump at the base of your big toe 

The most noticeable bunion symptom is a hard bump at the base of your toe. This bump isn’t movable and doesn’t hurt in the early stages. 

However, as the bump grows, the toe pushes even farther inward toward the other toes, causing a deformity of the toes. In some cases, the bulging bump may make it hard to wear shoes, as the friction between the bump and the inside of the shoe may cause blisters, corns, or calluses. 

2. Redness and swelling around your big toe 

Not everyone experiences this symptom, but in some cases, the bulging bump may redden and become swollen and inflamed. 

If this happens to you, opt for comfortable shoes that won’t crowd your big toe. Applying an ice pack may also help reduce inflammation. 

3. Stiffness in your big toe 

You may experience stiffness in your big toe due to the MTP joint being pushed against the rest of your toes, crowding them. As time goes on, the stiffness in your big toe may extend to the rest of your toes.

4. Ongoing foot pain 

In more advanced stages, bunions can become sensitive and painful. The pain may worsen when you wear tight shoes or after you spend a lot of time on your feet. Rest, ice packs, and massages may help relieve these symptoms. 

Treatments available for bunions 

Depending on your symptoms and the size of your bunion, our experts here may start by recommending customized orthotic devices, nighttime toe splints, or over-the-counter pain medications. 

If conservative approaches aren’t enough, we may recommend surgery. Invasive treatments are usually necessary only when the bunion is big enough to cause pain and discomfort. 

Want to stop your bunion from progressing? Contact us by phone or online to schedule an appointment and get expert advice on managing your bunion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bunions are relatively common foot deformities, affecting millions of people worldwide. They are distinguished by a bony bump at the base of the big toe, frequently resulting in discomfort, edema, and trouble putting on shoes. While anyone can develop bunions, they are more prevalent among women and individuals with a family history of the condition. Factors such as wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes, foot injuries, and specific structural abnormalities can contribute to their development.

Treatment options range from conservative measures like wearing wider shoes and orthotic inserts to surgical correction for severe cases. Early diagnosis and effective treatment can reduce symptoms and prevent the illness from worsening.

Bunions typically develop due to a combination of genetic predisposition and external factors. While the exact cause isn’t always straightforward, wearing tight or narrow shoes, especially high heels, can exacerbate the condition by putting pressure on the toes and pushing them out of alignment. Additionally, specific foot shapes or structural abnormalities, such as flat feet or excessive pronation, can increase the risk of developing bunions. A bunion is a common deformity that develops when there is pressure and misalignment at the base of the big toe joint, causing a bony hump.

The treatment of bunions depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, conservative measures like wearing comfortable, roomy shoes and using orthotic inserts to support and relieve pressure on the affected area can help manage symptoms. Applying ice packs and taking over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce pain and inflammation. For more severe cases where bunions cause persistent pain and impair daily activities, surgical intervention may be necessary to realign the toe joint and remove the bony protrusion. Consulting with a healthcare professional is essential to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on individual circumstances.