What Causes Bunions

Many people with bunion suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the enlargement against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in, the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult—all contributing to chronic pain.


What Are Some Causes?

  • Wearing improperly fitting shoes (particularly narrow and/or high-heeled shoes)
  • Certain arthritic conditions and ligament disorders
  • Age (the incidence of bunions increases with age)
  • Being flatfooted with feet that roll inwards (over pronation)
  • Past injury (trauma) to the foot
  • Nerve conditions affecting the foot.

Conservative Treatments of a Bunion:

Bunions are bony deformities, and do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain cause by irritations, and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement. Commonly used methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include:

  • The use of protective padding, often made from felt material, to eliminate the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems.
  • Removal of corns and calluses on the foot.
  • Changing to carefully-fitted / wider footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth.
  • Orthotic devices—both over-the-counter and custom made—to help stabilize the joint and place the foot in the correct position for walking and standing.
  • Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness or arthritis.
  • Splints for nighttime wear to help the toes and joint align properly. This is often recommended for adolescents with bunions, because their bone development may still be adaptable.


  • X-ray: May be needed to evaluate for possible arthritis to the big toe joint.

Surgical Treatment of a Bunion:

Depending on the size of the bunion, malalignment of the toe, and amount of pain experienced, conservative treatments may not be adequate to prevent progressive damage from bunions. In these cases, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, may be advised to remove the bunion and realign the toe.

We encourage you to consult with a foot and ankle specialist for a complete assessment of your condition.