How do you get rid of a bunion without surgery?

Whether it’s sandal season or boot season, you may be thinking it’s time to do something about that bunion jutting out at the base of your big toe.

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Doctors call that bunion hallux valgus. It forms when the bone or tissue at the joint at the bottom of the big toe moves out of place. Years of abnormal motion and pressure on the joint forces the big toe to bend toward the others, which causes an often-painful bunion on the joint.

This joint at the base of the big toe carries much of your weight while walking, so bunions can cause severe and constant pain. The joint may become so stiff and sore that shoes are painful to wear.


Are stilettos to blame?

Bunions often run in families, but they also can be the result of the way we walk or the shoes we wear, says podiatrist Georgeanne Botek, DPM, Head of the Section of Podiatry.

Women develop bunions far more often than men, Dr. Botek says, especially as they get older.

People with flexible joints seem to tolerate their bunions more. But others with stiff joints or arthritis usually have more trouble with their bunions and might develop pain earlier, she says.

If you develop a bunion, talk to your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a podiatrist who diagnoses and treats conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg.

Treating bunions without surgery

Bunions are permanent unless surgically corrected. But there are some measures you can take to be more comfortable or to slow a bunion’s progression, says podiatrist Dina Stock, DPM.

“For many people, it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes,” she says. “Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot.”

Dr. Stock says these seven approaches may relieve the pain and pressure on the toe joint:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Protect the bunion with a moleskin or gel-filled pad, which you can buy at a drugstore.
  3. Use shoe inserts to help position the foot correctly. These can be over-the-counter arch supports or prescription orthotic devices.
  4. Under a doctor’s guidance, wear a splint at night to hold the toe straight and ease discomfort.
  5. Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
  6. Use warm soaks, ice packs, Whirlpool, ultrasound and massage.
  7. Buy well-fitting footwear that’s wide in the toe area. Shop at a store where the staff measures your foot and can fit you with an appropriate shoe.

Some people are interested in treating their bunions by stretching the feet to realign the toes, or using devices such as toe spacers or bunion splints, Dr. Botek says. Often though, the device is like a pair of eyeglasses – when you take it off, the benefit is gone.

“It won’t completely realign your toe permanently,” Dr. Botek says.

When it’s time for surgery

If your bunion is very painful, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. “First do surgery on your shoes,” Dr. Botek states. “If pain persists for more than a year, it may be time to consider bunion surgery, but most patients will have bunions and pain on and off for years before electing for surgery.”

Your doctor also may recommend surgery because bunions can result in other painful foot problems, such as hammertoes, bursitis, a bunion below the little toe, or pain in the balls of your feet, Dr. Botek says. Surgery can be done on mild or severe cases.

Suggested by Cleveland Clinic

When Should I Have Surgery for My Bunions?

“When patients come in at an older age, usually it’s because the bunion is causing other problems,” Dr. Botek says. “For these patients, the pain is more constant or is creating problems with the second toe.”

The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and return the big toe to its correct position. A surgeon puts bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves back into correct order, and removes the bump.

There are more than 150 types of bunion surgery, but surgeons typically choose one from about a half-dozen commonly used procedures, Dr. Botek says.

What to do about bunions

Bunion surgery by category


Surgical treatment

Mild bunion

Shaves the bony excess on the outside of the metatarsal head. Realigns the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint. Recovery takes 3–4 weeks and usually involves wearing a postoperative shoe. May not correct the deformity that caused the bunion.

Moderate bunion

Same as for a mild bunion, plus osteotomy (cutting) of the metatarsal head to shift it into proper alignment. The bone is held in place with screws or pins. Recovery takes 4–6 weeks, depending on the procedure. You may need to wear a short cast and use crutches.

Severe bunion

Cuts away the bony excess at the head of the metatarsal bone. Removes a wedge-like piece of bone and realigns the metatarsal, which is secured with screws or pins. Corrects tendons and ligaments. Recovery takes 6–12 weeks. You may need to wear a short cast and use crutches. If the joint is beyond repair, it may be replaced with an artificial joint.

Source: Based on information from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons

Outcomes and complications of bunion surgery

Variations among toe-joint deformities and surgical techniques make it difficult to evaluate the results of bunion surgery. Some studies suggest that 85% to 90% of patients are satisfied with their results, but one review found that about a third of patients were dissatisfied even when their pain and toe alignment improved. The problem may be unrealistic expectations. Some patients mistakenly believe that after surgery, the big toe will be completely straight and the foot will fit into narrower shoes. (“We can’t make the foot or bunion area perfect; we can make it better,” says Dr. James P. Ioli, chief of podiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.) Patients may also expect faster relief from pain and swelling than the procedure allows.

Complication rates from various studies range from 10% to 55%. The most common complication is recurrence of the bunion, reported in as many as 16% of cases. This can happen when only the bony prominence is shaved off and the underlying deformity is not corrected.

Sometimes the cut bone reunites too slowly or, rarely, doesn’t come together at all. This condition, called nonunion, usually requires another surgery. Other possible complications are irritation from the pins or screws used to hold the bone together and excessive scarring or stiffness. Swelling after surgery usually eases within two months but may last six months or longer. The joint may be stiff for several months. Nerve damage and continued pain are rare, but when they occur, they can lengthen recovery time and create a need for further surgery. The chance of infection is less than 1%.

The decision to undergo surgery isn’t easy. You’ll need to weigh the potential benefits against the risks. The good news is that bunion surgery isn’t a medical crisis. You have time to investigate, weigh your options, and, if you wish, secure a second opinion.

Dr. James P. Ioli, chief of podiatry at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, helped prepare this article.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

How to Fix a Bunion Without Surgery (4 Easy Tips)

Bunions are a pain. Literally.

Wearing hiking boots (or any shoes) when you have a bunion can not only be uncomfortable, but painful.

Pain when wearing shoes will cause you to miss out on time on the trails.

Fortunately, we have some tips on how to fix a bunion without surgery.

– Updated 10/17/2019

What is a Bunion?

A bunion (doctors call it hallux valgus) is a bony growth that develops at the base of your big toe on the inside of the foot.

photo credit: 4betterfeet

Bunions can occur due to the bone or tissue at the joint that is located at the bottom of the big toe moving out of place. Over time, atypical motion and pressure on the joint will push the big toe to bend toward the other toes, creating a lump at the joint.

Fortunately, bunions don’t have to slow you down. There are things that you can do to slow the progression of the bunion, alleviate the pressure and big toe joint pain, as well as limit its interference in the activities you love.

While the exact cause of bunions is unknown, there are many ideas. There is some belief that certain foot types are more susceptible to developing bunions. Foot injuries or congenital deformities may also be factors.

Some experts believe that certain types of shoes (tight, high heels, too narrow) may cause bunions or at a minimum contribute to their development. Individuals with arthritis, in particular inflammatory types like rheumatoid arthritis, may be more likely to develop bunions.

How to Fix a Bunion Without Surgery

There is some debate as to whether you can completely eliminate your bunion without surgery. Splints and exercises can improve the condition and fortunately there are ways to alleviate the pain you are experiencing.

Choose the Right Shoes and Boots

When you have a bunion, wearing the right shoes is important. This goes not just for hiking but for everyday footwear. Choose shoes that will offer plenty of space for not only your toes but the widest part of your foot.

A wide, flexible sole that will support your foot is important and they should also be low heeled and comfortable. When choosing shoes with a back, the part that surrounds the heel should be sturdy so that your heel remains stable.

Inserts and Pads

Shoe inserts will work to position your foot properly and are available over the counter or as a prescription orthotic. The right insert will help align your foot properly, minimizing the pressure that your joint experiences. It is also helpful to use a moleskin or gel pad to protect the bunion from rubbing against your shoe.

Give Splints a Try

Splints are a helpful option for mild to moderate bunions. To be effective, these splints must be used on a constant basis over a period of time. A night bunion splint, for example, will be put on each night when you go to bed and taken off in the morning. The splint will help to correct the condition, realigning your big toe with your foot, as well as decrease the pain that the bunion is causing. You can even make your own.

The following video will show you how to put on a night splint.

Also, check out the Bunion “Bootie”, which is a soft splint that you wear all day with your shoes as well as to bed. The bootie is anchored at your ankle, gradually pulling your big toe away from your other toes. Wearing this soft splint will help to improve your balance and return some of the natural alignment to your foot. Toe spacers are another option for both bunions and bunionettes.

Our favorite toe spacer product comes in a kit. It’s the Bunion Corrector & Bunion Relief Protector Sleeves Kit.

Exercises and Treatment for your Feet

Certain foot exercises can be helpful for those with bunions. Soaking your foot in warm water, icing it, ultrasound and massage can help to decrease the pain that you are experiencing as a result of your bunion. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin or ibuprofen may also be helpful in providing relief for bunion pain.

How to Prevent Bunions

There are things that you can do that will help to prevent your developing a bunion in the first place. When choosing shoes, look for a pair with a wide toe box, with space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Avoid pointy shoes; if it looks like your toes will be scrunched up in them, they likely will be. Choose a shoe with low or no heels, as well as good arch support.

  • Related: How to Prevent Blisters on Your Feet When Hiking
  • Related: How To Break In A New Pair Of Hiking Boots
  • Related: Is Walking Good For Plantar Fasciitis?
  • Related: The 6 Best Walking Boots for Plantar Fasciitis (Men’s & Women’s Top Picks)

Limiting activities that cause you to put a lot of pressure on your big toe may also be helpful; alternate activities like running and hiking with swimming and bicycling.

Hiking Boots for Bunions

Fortunately, surgery is not the only option when dealing with painful bunions and they don’t have to keep you away from the trails. Check out our review of the 6 Best Hiking Boots for Bunions for our recommendations.

The Importance of Big Toe Mobility and How to Increase It

When it comes to our toes, they are often neglected compared to other body parts. However, the big toe in particular, otherwise known as the great toe, plays a more significant role in our daily lives than you might think.

All of our toes are far more useful than applying polish and gripping flip flops. In fact, the big toe is vital in contributing to proper arching of the foot, as well as propulsion (forcing forward movement) and shock absorption. With a standard stride, our toes extend upward when we land to help the foot arch at a higher level, working as a shock absorber. The arch will then flatten as the toes lower naturally within the stride. And, this is true for both walking and running. Of course, only if you have decent mobility in your big toe.

If you lose mobility in a big toe, you will also lose the ability to have a functional and stable gait. Just to give you an idea, wrap your toes up…then try to walk normally. Mobility could be lost due to an injury, such as a broken toe, an infection, or arthritis. If the injury is severe, it could lead to weeks of physical therapy to gain back the necessary mobility.

With the big toe playing such a significant role, you might find that your physical therapist asks you to do some toe stretches if you have gone through any type of injury or surgery effecting the foot, ankle or big toe, such as for bunions. Fortunately, the stretches can be done just about anywhere.

So, let’s take a look at some toe stretching examples…

3 Types of Toe Stretches to Consider

There are many stretches you can do for your toes, some are more complex and will also help with other body parts, such as ankle and leg. Here are just 3 varieties…

1. Manual Manipulation – Let’s first take a look at manual manipulation, a term often used in massage therapy. This stretch is also known as a toe pullback stretch and is simple to do.

• Sit down in a chair or the floor, as long as you are comfortable. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
• Place your fingers over the big toe, so that your fingertips will rest near or on the large joint at the base (bottom of the foot) where your toe connects to the rest of the foot.
• Press your thumb right into the top joint, and then slowly bend the toe backward as far back as your comfort will allow.
• Hold for approximately 10 seconds, and then release. Repeat this stretch 3-5 times, and then repeat all steps with the opposite foot.

2. Toe Curls – Adding some toe curls is another simple stretch that is good for the toes.

• Sit in a comfortable chair, placing your feet flat on the floor, with knees at a 90° angle, and back straight for comfort and support.
• Slowly curl the toes of both feet under, as much as possible. This will cause the ball of each foot to slightly lift from the floor.
• Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly release the curl back to the flat position.
• Repeat this 10 times.

3. Toe to Wall Stretches – This stretch is a bit more complex. For example, it will also stretch the calves.

• Standing, flex your toes (of one foot) upward and place them against the wall, keeping the rest of that same foot on the floor.
• Lean the upper part of your body towards the wall, while gently raising your heel off from the floor. If you are doing this right, it will feel as though your toes are pushing into the wall and you will feel a pull and slight discomfort.
• Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly go back to the starting position.
• Repeat these steps about 10 times with one foot, and then switch to repeat them with your other foot.

These are just a few examples of toe stretches. They are easy and quick enough to do daily, no matter where you are for that day. If you have a few minutes on your lunch break, it’s easy to work it in!

10 Step Guide for Treating Bunion Pain

Will my bunion go away on its own?

Patients often ask us, “will my bunion go away on its own?” While the answer, unfortunately, is that it won’t, there are things you can do to prevent your bunion from getting bigger.

Not all bunions are caused by the same thing. Both genetics and your lifestyle can lead to developing a bunion.

If you’re a female in your late 40’s or older, you’re at a much higher risk of developing a bunion than anyone else. Doesn’t seem fair does it?!

Bunions usually develop in women who are more likely to wear tight, narrow shoes regularly. Tight-fitting shoes puts pressure on the outside of your toe, gradually pushing it inward. High heels can increase pressure in the front of the foot and lead to various foot problems in some cases.

Over time, you may develop a painful bump at the outer edge of your foot that signals a bunion.

If your foot looks like this, there is good news. You can slow progression of the bunion and avoid worsening pain by following our 10 Step Guide for Bunion Pain Relief.

Neuhaus Foot & Ankle’s 10 Step Guide for Bunion Pain Relief

1. Wear wide shoes

Most symptoms of bunions involve pressure from the shoe against the bunion region. This often leads to direct pain over the bunion, swelling, redness and/or blistering. Because narrow shoes push your big toe in, wearing wide shoes can relieve the pressure on your foot.

Sorry ladies, this may mean those favorite pumps will have to go. Opt for flats with plenty of room in the toe box. Avoid shoes that are too short, tight, or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than a couple of inches.

When buying your next pair of shoes, go to a shoe store with well trained shoe fitters to size your feet. A trained shoe fitter will not only lead you to the best fitting shoes, but can often modify the shoe to fit difficult to fit feet. We highly recommend Fleet Feet and the New Balance stores.

Avoid expensive and high-pressure shoe stores like The Good Feet Store.

2. Get better arch support in your shoes

Supporting your arch will transfer force away from the bunion area. While a high quality pre-made orthotic can help, it will not be as effective as a custom orthotic. If you want to save a few dollars and go the store-bought route, look for Powerstep or Superfeet brands. These two companies are the industry standard for quality over-the-counter orthotics.

3. Stop wearing slippers at home and wear sandals with an arch support instead

The same concept applies as above. Avoid narrow footwear and support your arch as much as possible. Narrow house slippers can push the big toe inward, causing further friction in the bunion area. Arch support can also reduce pressure on the bunion.

4. Wear socks designed to reduce friction and add cushion

Socks made from cotton are not a good option because they cause a higher amount of friction. Also avoid socks with seams across the toes. These can cause friction and pain to the bunion area. Look for seamless socks. These can be made with a combination of wool and spandex. Compression socks also help avoid friction. If you have diabetes though, avoid compression socks because you don’t want to restrict blood flow to your feet.

5. Wear a protective pad to reduce pressure on the bunion

Bunion pads can help by redistributing pressure away from the affected joint. Make sure to test the pads for a short time period first to ensure they’re reducing pressure, rather than constricting toes even more and making the bunion bump even worse.

6. Use a toe separator

A separator between your first and second toes prevent them from abutting against each other. Toe spacers are best when the big toe is deviated, and in the early stages of bunions, before the big toe becomes more fixed in its position. While this won’t reverse or heal your bunion, it may help straighten your toe joint while wearing it. Some feel immediate pain relief.

7. Ice the bunion for at least 10 minutes every night

This step and step eight both address the swelling that occurs when you’ve been on your feet all day and putting constant pressure on the bunion area. You can reduce the inflammation around the toe joint with consistent ice therapy.

8. Use a topical pain-relief gel over the bunion

Quality topical gels like biofreeze can reduce short term pain and inflammation. Since it’s only temporary relief, you may grow tired of continually icing and applying gel over time and the cost will add up. Until you’re ready for more advanced treatments, this is a home remedy for treating bunion pain.

9. Bunion Splints

Bunion splints prevent the first and second toes from pushing against each other. This reduces pressure between the toes and may relieve some of the pain caused by the bunion. It is recommended to use this at night while you sleep. In our opinion, there are better alternatives, like those mentioned above, for relieving bunion pain. Some people have found bunion splints to be an effective short term solution, however. There is no evidence to suggest that bunion splints will correct or straighten the toe, though many products online promise “bunion correction.” Buyer beware.

10. Consider surgery to fix the bunion for good

Neuhaus Foot & Ankle specializes in bunion treatment and we try to treat bunion pain without surgery. Surgery should be a last resort. If we recommend bunion surgery (bunionectomy), it’s because other treatments would be ineffective at best, and a waste of your effort and money at worst.

Those living with bunion pain for years have likely developed a more severe bunion and the treatments listed in this guide will have little impact. Once bunion pain begins limiting your daily activities, surgery can be a very effective option. Not all podiatrists specialize in bunions, so make sure your podiatrist is highly experienced in this area. Ideally, you know someone who has had bunion surgery and they’ll be able to refer you to a qualified podiatrist.

Bunion surgery, or a bunionectomy, is the most effective way to treat your bunion but it’s not the only way.

Watch Dr. Neuhaus talk about what to expect after bunion surgery or talk to one of us at Neuhaus Foot & Ankle to see what your bunion treatments are. We’d love to help you to enjoy comfortable, pain-free activities again.

At Neuhaus Foot & Ankle, we understand how frustrating getting proper treatment for bunions can be. Your patient experience is so important to us, we’ve earned top podiatrist in the area five years in a row. When you have a foot or ankle issue, we hope you see a podiatrist at Neuhaus Foot & Ankle first.

Manage Bunion Pain With Home Remedies, Exercises & Self-Aid Tips

In this article:

A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is a foot deformity in which the big toe deviates laterally, causing a large bony protrusion. The causes are numerous and complicated, and bunions can be difficult to treat.

The development of a bunion is usually the outcome of genetic predisposition and the prolonged wearing of improper shoes. Over time, an outward protruding bony bump sticks out from the base of the big toe.

Because this deformity manifests at the site of the big toe joint, it makes it extremely painful for you to walk or move your big toe. It is also difficult to find shoes that fit properly.

The incidence of bunions is almost a third of the adult population in the United States.

Women tend to be more prone to the development of these bony bumps. This is probably due to the typically restrictive design of female footwear.

If you do not attend to the problem in time, the condition will continue to worsen. Adequate self-care measures and select home treatments may help reduce the symptoms to a manageable degree, but they are largely ineffective at fixing the actual deformity.

Causes and Risk Factors

Bunions are common, but the exact reason for their occurrence is largely unclear. However, some people are more likely to develop bunions than others.

  • The design of your footwear can have a significant bearing on the development and aggravation of this foot condition. People who regularly wear tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes are more likely to develop a bunion. (1)
  • People who have family members with bunions are predisposed to this condition.
  • People whose work requires them to stay on their feet or walk for long stretches have an increased risk of developing bunions.
  • Ballet dancers are especially prone to developing bunions as their feet go through excessive straining on a regular basis.
  • Bunions are a common occurrence in people with a problematic foot structure, such as those with unusually loose ligaments, abnormally flexible joints, or flat feet.
  • Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing bunions and other foot problems as they undergo certain hormonal fluctuations that render their feet increasingly flat and their ligaments quite loose.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis and certain neuromuscular health conditions have an increased likelihood of developing bunions.
  • The anatomy of the first metatarsal bone also plays a role in the occurrence of bunions. If the top of this bone is too rounded, the risk of deformity is greater.

Several other factors can predispose you to this condition, such as:

  • Inherited structural defect of the foot
  • Foot injuries
  • Foot deformities present at birth

Symptoms of Bunion

The development of a bunion is usually accompanied by the following discomforting symptoms:

  • The skin surrounding the bunion is likely to be increasingly irritated and painful.
  • You may notice redness, swelling, and inflammation around the affected joint.
  • Corns or calluses may develop on the raised site.
  • The skin may be tender to the touch.
  • The big toe may become increasingly stiff, which can hamper its movement and make walking difficult.
  • There is a possibility that the big toe may shift laterally against the adjacent toe. This deformity can make it difficult to find shoes that fit properly.
  • In severe cases, the second toe can override the big toe.


Bunions are easy to spot. The bony bump typically protrudes from the base of the big toe or the side of the foot. All it takes is a visual assessment of the foot for your podiatrist to make a diagnosis.

If the doctor feels the need for a more in-depth analysis, he/she may recommend a foot X-ray to determine the extent of damage and any anatomical changes that may have occurred.

Medical Treatment

There are several nonsurgical interventions that your podiatrist/foot surgeon may recommend to manage an uncomplicated case of bunions.

These first-line treatments are intended to provide symptomatic relief, rather than correct the physical deformity of your foot. Preliminary treatment for bunions typically includes the following measures:

  • Over-the-counter medications analgesic or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen can help with pain management.
  • Reusable bunion pads provide cushioning to ease the pressure over the big toe, and they are readily available at most pharmacies.
    These pads are usually made of gel or fleece and provide a protective covering over the affected area to prevent the bump from rubbing against the shoe surface.
  • Orthotics (braces) or insoles are fitted inside your footwear to provide support to your feet.
    By realigning your foot’s skeletal frame in such a way that the pressure is evenly distributed instead of being concentrated on the protruding bunion alone, orthotic fittings can help relieve the pain.

When Is Surgery Needed?

If you fail to respond to nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be needed. Severe cases of bunions can be intensely painful and keep you from performing even the simplest of tasks.

This deformity can render you unable to walk or stand without experiencing excruciating pain.

In such cases, it is best to consult with your foot surgeon about the available surgical options to determine which one is best for you.

The doctor will take into account the following factors before zeroing in on either a single procedure or a combination of surgeries:

  • How old are you?
  • To what extent is your foot deformed?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • How active are you in daily life?
  • Are you suffering from any other associated medical condition?

Unlike nonsurgical methods, surgery serves a double purpose: to ease the pain associated with bunions and to correct the structural abnormalities in the foot.

Bunions: How to Manage Your Condition at Home

Here’s what you can do at home to minimize the discomfort caused by a mild case of bunions.

1. Self-Care Measures for Pain-Relief

  • If you happen to have an inflamed bunion, keeping your foot elevated may help bring down the swelling and pain. Try to keep the affected foot in a raised position for 15 minutes every other hour.
  • You should maintain a healthy body weight to reduce the overall pressure on your feet.
  • Do some overnight therapy by wearing a splint to realign the toe and hold it in place while you sleep.
  • Bunions tend to be worse in people with flat feet. To correct this anatomical abnormality, you can use arch supports that are easily available at local pharmacies and do not require a prescription.
  • Acupuncture may help with pain management for bunions. You can discuss with your doctor the suitability of this alternative treatment technique for your case.

2. Shoes for Bunions

The right kind of footwear can help reduce the discomfort caused by a bunion and keep it from worsening. If you have a bunion, here are a few points that you should keep in mind when you go shoe shopping:

  • Make sure that the shoes have extra room in the toe box for the bony protrusion and a well-built heel counter to keep the back of your foot in place.
  • High-heeled footwear is not for you, as it will only exert added pressure on the big toe. Keep the heel height within an inch, at best.
  • If you have your heart set on a pair of shoes that have a narrow front, you can have the shoe stretched to expand the toe space so that there is enough space for the bunion.
  • Look for shoes with a wide rubber sole that can provide extra support to your feet.
  • In addition to the design, you must also pay attention to the fabric of the shoe. Wear shoes that are made from comfortable material.
  • To keep your foot from sliding forward and straining the big toe further, it may help to wear shoes with a strap or lace over the instep that can tighten the foot in place.
  • Open sandals will allow your feet to breathe. Athletic shoes and shoes made from soft leather also serve as good options.

3. Ice

Overexertion of your feet due to prolonged walking, running, or simply standing can irritate your bunion and make it increasingly sore.

You can try a bit of ice therapy to ease pain and inflammation. This is a safe, simple, and cost-effective intervention that may help mitigate your symptomatic discomfort.

It essentially entails the topical application of a cold compress to numb the affected area and provide pain relief.

  • To make a cold compress, wrap some ice in a clean cloth or tea towel.
  • Alternatively, you can apply a bag of frozen peas or other vegetables to the forefront of the foot, just below the bunion area. Never apply ice directly to the toes for fear of frostbite to the digits.
  • Applying a cold pack to your painful toe joint several times a day helps bring down the swelling and alleviate your discomfort.

Note: Direct application of ice can be harsh for your skin. People with sensitive skin also run the risk of developing frostbite with this method.

4. Foot Exercises

When done correctly and on a regular basis, foot exercises may be beneficial in reducing the pain caused by bunions.

Working out your toes may help impart greater flexibility to them. Foot exercises are complementary interventions that can help delay the progression of your bunion and save you from the need for surgery.

Because bunions often result from the lack of stability in your joints, ligaments, and tendons, exercising your foot can help make it structurally strong and secure.

Exercise #1

Toe-spread-out exercise:

  1. While keeping your heel and the front of your foot firmly planted on the floor, raise your toes and spread them out.
  2. Push the little toe back down to the floor while keeping the rest of the toes lifted in the air.
  3. Force your big toe down, steering it towards the inside of the foot.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then bring your foot to a resting position.

Exercise #2

Heel-raise exercise:

  1. Stand on your bare feet while keeping your knees bent and heels turned in.
  2. Remaining in the same position, try to raise the arch of your foot as high as possible.
  3. Elevate the heel of the affected foot from the ground while exerting pressure on your bunion-ridden toe.
  4. Stay in this position for 5 seconds and then relax.

Exercise #3

Short-foot exercise:

  1. Form an arch in your foot while keeping your toes spread out straight and firmly grounded.
  2. Keep your heel planted on the floor as well.
  3. Make sure not to squeeze or curl your toes. (2)
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then relax.

Repeat each of the above-listed exercises several times, until your muscles feel completely exhausted.

Possible Complications in Case of Bunions

An untreated bunion can lead to intense pain and can distort the appearance of your foot. In advanced stages, the big toe will progressively twist inwards and come all the way above or below the second toe.

Calluses: Due to the pressure exerted by the deformed big toe, the gap between the second and third toe will close, increasing friction between the two.

The constant rubbing of the toes against each other can lead to the development of calluses. This complication only adds to your pain and discomfort, especially while walking.

Bursitis: Another painful complication of severe bunions is bursitis. When your big toe joint becomes enlarged, the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) surrounding it may become inflamed, leading to the onset of this bursitis.

These sacs act as cushions that help curb friction in the joint caused by movement.

Arthritis: Because the deformed big toe joint is unable to glide smoothly, gradual degeneration of the smooth cartilage covering it occurs.

The loss of cartilage tissue is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis and chronic pain.

Problems You Might Mistake for Bunions

  • Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that produces symptoms similar to those of bunions, including pain, inflammation, and redness.
    Gout usually occurs due to the buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can lead to the formation of urate crystals in the joint. While it can affect any of the joints, it is most commonly observed in the hallux or the big toe.
  • Ganglion cysts are small fluid-filled cysts that physically resemble bunions but are not as firm or rigid to touch.
    To tell the two apart, you simply have to press on the lumpy protrusion on your big toe. If it subsides under pressure, the bump is most likely a ganglion cyst.

When to See a Doctor

It is advisable to seek professional medical intervention in the following situations:

  • If your pain worsens despite adequate rest and self-care measures
  • If you experience extreme stiffness in your big toe that makes it difficult to move it
  • When the pain arising out of the bunion does not subside even after taking remedial measures
  • When the pain stemming from the bunion makes it increasingly difficult for you to conduct your daily activities, hindering simple tasks such as walking or wearing shoes
  • If the bump expands to a size that makes it difficult for you to find a shoe that can accommodate your foot comfortably
  • If you suspect that the affected area may have become infected due to increased redness and swelling, more so if you have diabetes

Final Word

Working on your feet does not cause bunions. Most are hereditary, aggravated by poor shoe gear or foot function. If a bunion is not treated properly, it can give rise to a lot of pain, discomfort and can even deform the affected foot.

Thus, it is important that you adopt the proper self-care measures along with proper orthotic footwear and foot exercises to relieve the discomfort and keep the condition from getting worse.

If the condition fails to improve or if you notice any new complications, consult your podiatrist for proper medical assistance.

Expert Answers (Q&A)

Answered by Dr. Hai-En Peng (Podiatrist)

Do bunions get worse if left untreated?

Yes. If you leave your bunion unattended, it will get increasingly difficult to fit shoes, and the pain worsens because bunions are a progressive deformity, which means it gets worse if left untreated.

How do we stop a bunion from progressing without surgery?

Nothing can stop the progression of the bunion, and you can only reverse it with surgery.

The one thing that can slow down the progression is custom orthotics. Please see your nearest podiatrist to get one fitted, if you are not ready to surgically correct your bunion.

Can bunions grow back after surgery?

Yes, if the wrong procedure is selected to repair the bunion. Be sure to consult your surgeon to ensure the correct procedure is done to keep your bunion from coming back.

Should people suffering from bunions wear bunion correctors?

In my opinion, those don’t really work in the long term, but it may help a little in the short term for only pain reduction.

Remember, these devices have not shown to reverse the deformity.

Are stretching exercises and massages helpful in treating bunions?

Yes, they can help relieve the strain and discomfort from the bunion deformity.

What is the easiest way to reduce bunion pain?

Bunion pain can be very debilitating, so please be sure to wear proper fitting shoes, so the shoes don’t rub on the bump itself. Use pads, spacers, icing, and Advil/Aleve to reduce the pain.

If the pain becomes constant and affects your daily activity, it is time to see your nearest podiatric surgeon to possibly look into getting the bunion surgically corrected. Don’t let bunion pain stop you from enjoying your activities!

About Dr. Hai-En Peng, Podiatrist: Dr. Peng was born in Nyack, NY, and went to California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco, CA. He spent 4 years there and graduated in the top 15% of his class. Dr. Peng also completed a 3-year advanced surgical residency in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery.

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  • Minimize, Manage, and Prevent Bunions

    You may be at increased risk of getting bunions if:

    • bunions run in your family
    • your foot isn’t properly aligned so the inside of it supports most of your weight or your foot has a fallen arch (flat feet)
    • you have an inflammatory condition, like rheumatoid arthritis
    • you have a job where you are on your feet a lot

    If any of these apply to you or you are starting to get a bunion, there are things you can do to help prevent bunions or stop them from getting worse. Some preventative tips are:

    Wear proper shoes

    Probably the most important thing you can do to keep your feet happy and help prevent bunions is to wear proper footwear. The best shoes for healthy feet are a little loose on your foot, have a wide toe box, good arch support, and heels that are less than 1 to 2 inches.

    If you like high heels, it’s okay to wear them occasionally, but you shouldn’t wear them every day.

    Blocky heels, wedges, and platform shoes are better options for shoes with some height since these are more likely to distribute your weight more evenly across your foot or to have a shallower angle which doesn’t push you onto the balls of your feet.

    Shoes that you have to tie are better than slip-ons because the laces prevent your foot from moving forward with every step. This motion puts pressure on your big toe joint.

    Shop for shoes in the evening

    This is the best time to look for shoes. Your feet normally swell during the day, so they’re biggest in the evening. If you buy shoes early in the day, they may end up being tight in the evening.

    Your shoes should be comfortable as soon as you buy them. You shouldn’t have to break them in before they are comfortable.

    Walk around and make sure the shoes are comfortable and fit well before you buy them. In properly fitting shoes, your toes don’t touch the front of the shoe and you can wiggle them comfortably.

    Make sure your foot has the proper support and is aligned properly

    If your foot isn’t properly aligned or you have flat feet (fallen arches), wear over-the-counter or prescription orthotics in your shoes. This ensures your foot is aligned correctly and well supported.

    A podiatrist (foot doctor) or someone at a home medical supply store can take measurements of your foot and recommend the best shoe and insert for your foot.

    There are also splints you can buy that keep your big toe straight but still allows you to walk. Inserts and orthotics also help distribute your weight more evenly on your foot.

    Find bunion correctors online.

    Stay at a healthy weight

    The weight of your body puts pressure on your feet every time you take a step. If you are overweight, your foot and big toe joint are under more pressure than they need to be.

    The higher the pressure the toe joint is under, the higher the chance of it developing a bunion or becoming inflamed and sore.

    Pamper your feet

    Take care of your feet. Soak them in warm water with Epsom salt when they are tired or sore. Use moisturizer so they don’t get too dry. Have someone massage or rub them from time to time. Put them up and rest them at the end of a long day.

    The better you take care of your feet, the less likely it is that you will get bunions or other problems. Healthy feet are happy feet.

    6 Tips on How to Prevent Bunions from Getting Worse

    Now that’s it come to this, and you’ve developed a bunion, you will have to deal with it and prevent it from getting worse.

    At first, this can be done in a few easy ways and won’t require you to have surgery at all.

    1. Using toe spacer and bunion splits – This is one of the easiest ways to deal with bunions when they’re not incredibly advanced.

    It involves using a physical object like a split or a brace of sorts, to push the toes into their more natural positions. They spread out your toes, and as they do, the bunion moves back inside.

    2. Massage – Most people think massages are good just for relaxation purposes, but I’ll tell you that a good massage can do you more good than most pills.
    That’s also the case when you have a bunion, and a well-performed massage routine can relax the muscles in the foot allowing them to move back into their natural positions thus correcting the misalignment of the toes.

    Massages are best applied after a workout routine, which can involve walking, running or a range of different foot stretch exercises. During the massage, a deep heat cream can be applied for the best results.
    Using various natural oils might also help further – olive oil and castor oil are quite popular for this purpose.

    Most massage routines for treating bunions aren’t too complicated, and you can learn to perform them yourself after a while. However, it is still best if it’s applied by a professional.

    3. Stretching exercises – Stretching exercises, especially when combined with a good massage, can make the muscles in your feet more flexible allowing your toes to return to their natural position.

    One simple exercise you can perform involves placing an elastic band on your big toes, turning your feet outwards slowly and then holding the position for around 60 to 90 seconds.
    After that relax for the same amount of time and repeat. You should do around 5 to 10 repetitions, 2 or 3 times per day.

    There is a range of other exercises you can try, and it’s best if you find one that suits you and stick to it for a longer time.

    4. Cold compress – The tried and true method for dealing with most inflammations is effective when it comes to bunions as well.
    It will reduce the swelling and the pain allowing you to be more comfortable and apply some of the other treatment options as well.

    All you need to do is take an ice pack wrapped in a cloth and apply it to the affected area.
    Apply it in 10-minute intervals with pauses of around 5 minutes in-between. Do this until you feel a noticeable relief and do it multiple times per day as needed. Just make sure not to put the ice directly on the skin to avoid freeze burns.

    This won’t make your bunion disappear, but it will slow its progress and definitely help with the swelling.

    5. Taping up your feet – This is one of the oldest methods in the book. Taping up your feet with medical tape for a few weeks forces the toes back into their natural positions.
    While it is possible to do this on your own, it is not advisable since the taping needs to be strong but shouldn’t cut off your circulation. If you opt for this, have a medical professional tape you up.

    Of course, you should also make sure to use proper medical tape. Don’t use just any tape you may have lying around since you run the risk of making your condition worse if you do that.

    6. Choose better shoes – Wearing good shoes might not reduce bunions, but it will definitely help stop their growth.
    What I mean by “good shoes” are shoes that leave enough space for your toes in the front. Shoes that are too narrow and that have a pointy toe box are bad, as are high heels.

    You can also choose from a wide variety of specially designed therapeutic footwear available on the market, some of which is designed specifically to deal with bunions and similar foot conditions.
    Orthotics can also help ease your condition and stop it from getting worse.

    How do you know if you have a bunion?

    A bunion is an aching bony bump that grows on the inside part of the foot at the big toe joint (while a Bunionette grows on the outside). Bunions are often referred to as hallux valgus. The most noticeable sign is a protruding lump on the joint. It may hurt and be swollen or irritated. It can also make it difficult to move your toes, particularly your big toe.

    Why do I have a bunion?

    Bunions may be caused by:

    • Wearing poorly fitted shoes -particularly shoes with a narrow, pointy toe box which changes the toes’ position into an unnatural one.
    • Heredity factors -some people inherit prone to developing bunions (owing to their form and structure)
    • Inflammatory disorder, caused by factors conditions as rheumatoid arthritis
    • A neuromuscular condition, such as polio.
      What can I do to shrink a bunion?

    1. Wear wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole

    In most cases, bunion pain is relieved by wearing wider shoes with adequate toe room and using other simple treatments to reduce pressure on the big toe.

    2. Try bunion pads

    Bunion pads are soft pads you put in your shoes to stop them rubbing on a bunion –you can purchase these from a pharmacy.

    3. Hold an ice pack

    Holding an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel on the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time helps to reduce to pain and the inflammation. According to the UK’s National Health Service, it’s a good way to control the size of your bunions.

    4. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen

    Anti-inflammatory and pain-relief drugs will help you contain both the pain and the inflammation. Make sure you don’t overuse them, and when the pain becomes unbearable, contact a foot doctor in Cary.

    5. Try to lose weight

    If you have some extra pounds, try to lose them. You may find out that your pain and swelling may be reduced if you can only give those therapists a chance. When in doubt, contact foot doctor in Raleigh.

    6. Bunion surgery (Yes! They do exist!)

    Your physician may recommend surgery for your bunion if, despite the above-mentioned treatments, you still have pain and trouble walking. Bunion surgery readjusts the bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves in order for the big toe to be brought back to its original position.
    There are numerous surgical procedures to fix bunions. Even though many are outpatient, a lengthy recovery is common after a bunion surgery.
    You should consider seeing a foot doctor in Raleigh, at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, if:

    • the pain hasn’t improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks;
    • the pain is stopping you doing your normal activities;
    • your bunions are getting worse;
    • you also have diabetes -foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes.

    The board certified, fellowship trained foot & ankle surgeons at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic bring together many years of experience to diagnose and treat even the most complex foot and ankle conditions for patients of all ages. They include:

    • Dr. David Boone
    • Dr. Kevin Logel
    • Dr. Carroll Kratzer

    Make an appointment with your foot doctor in Holly Springs, Raleigh, Cary, or Garner today, to get specialized treatment with a personal approach.
    The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.


    Known as hallux abductovalgus, bunions aren’t easy to manage. No wonder they’re among the most painful and common foot problems out there.

    A bunion appears when your big toe starts to turn inwards, causing a prominence or bump to grow on the side of the big toe and the and first metatarsal bone.

    Surgery or bunionectomy is usually the most common way to get rid of bunions. However, if you’re having a bunion and want to shrink it in a natural way, you’ve come to the right place.

    Read on to find out the tried and tested tricks to cure your bunions naturally and ward off a new one without surgery and medications.

    Invest in a Bunion Corrector – Bunion Protector And Bunion Relief Sleeve

    Just because you have a bunion doesn’t mean you should stay in bed and wait until it vanishes itself. You can still be active and productive with a bunion corrector.

    The major perk of using it is because it helps to ease the pain, pressure, and discomfort caused by a bunion.

    Our top choice and recommendation is the Bunion Corrector and Bunion Relief Sleeve by BeautTM, which is one of the most effective bunion treatments with a long-lasting pain-relief.

    It features a gel pad that serves as a buffer to protect the sensitive area around the bunion and prevent the painful rubbing that happens when you walk or exercise.

    You can wear this bunion protector discreetly under stockings, socks, and shoes no matter where you go. You can literally wear it in all types of shoes including the heels.

    The bunion corrector doesn’t slide, allowing you to walk confidently or work out intensively.

    Use Bunion Cushions – ZenToes Bunion Cushions

    When it comes to bunion cushions, many people avoid them due to the odor they create. ZenToes Bunion Cushions are odor resistant and waterproof and they don’t bunch, slide, or fall off.

    These bunion cushions feature a dual-layered cushioned support, providing more comfort than many other standard bunion protectors.

    When you’re on your feet all day long, your bunion can cause severe pain and discomfort and may distract you from enjoying your day or completing some promising project.

    ZenToes Bunion Cushions help to lower pressure, chafing, and friction while wearing the socks, work boots, tennis shoes, sneakers, and even the heels.

    The waterproof adhesive ensures these bunion cushions will last through the entire day. But one of the features we like about these cushions is their odor-resistant abilities.

    There are many people suffering from smelly feet, so getting an odor-resistant and comfortable bunion cushions is a win-win solution.

    Try a Shoe Stretcher – FootFitter Shoe Stretcher

    FootFitter Shoe Stretcher is our next recommendation if you have a painful bunion but should stay active all day long.

    The durable cast iron shoe stretcher ensures a great protection, long-lasting pain relieving, and the highest comfort level possible.

    Since FootFitter Shoe Stretcher targets even the smallest areas of the shoe, you can wear almost all types of shoes with this stretcher.

    The shoe stretcher is perfect for people who need to change a specific area of the shoe instead of stretching the overall width or length.

    The ball-and-ring tip of the stretcher provides the ability to target the small areas and guarantees the overall fit.

    We recommend you to leave the stretcher in the affected area overnight for the best results.

    Even when you get rid of your bunion, you can leave and use the stretcher to hammertoes, treat corns, and foot-related issues.

    Enjoy an Olive Oil Massage

    Regular olive oil massages can fix all of your biggest bunion issues. It improves the blood flow to the toes and makes the restricted synovial fluids in the joints move around the bones.

    Apply a few drops of olive oils to your foot and massage it for 15 to 20 minutes. Do it two times a day for a week or so before you notice the positive result.

    Olive oil helps to ease the bunion-related foot pain, fatigue in the joints, and stiffness, as well as boasts powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

    Apart from massages, use olive oil in your favorite meals, but don’t forget about moderation.

    Try Icing Your Bunions

    Applying some ice packs to the bunion can help to fight inflammation, relieve the pain, and prevent discomfort.

    Ice your bunion for about 10 minutes each night and follow up with wearing warm soaks.

    This will help to relieve tension and relax the muscles in the foot. Icing your bunions can also help with swelling reduction.

    If you don’t have ice packs, consider making your own ones. Wrap some ice cubes in a cloth-like material or paper towel and place on your bunions for 15 to 20 minutes.

    If you don’t have ice cubes handy, just soak your bunion in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes and wear warm socks after it. It’s an instant way to reduce the pain.

    Consider A Red Pepper Treatment

    Fighting inflammation is a crucial part of any bunion treatment.

    Red pepper is known for its anti-inflammatory mechanisms and even though it causes a little bit of the stinging pain, it’s a practical solution for shrinking bunions naturally.

    Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with ½ teaspoon of chopped red pepper and massage your bunion with this mixture for about 10-15 minutes once per day for a week.

    What Causes Bunions?

    There are several major causes of bunions and some of them are quite preventable. They are:

    • Uncomfortable shoes;
    • Loose ligaments, inflexible joints, and poor muscle tone (for instance, in Marfan syndrome and cerebral palsy);
    • Psoriatic arthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis;
    • Specific foot structures at birth;
    • Genetic (if a family member had or has a bunion).


    If left untreated, bunions may cause poor flexibility, swelling, and pain in the big toe joint, distortions in the foot shape, making it tricky to find the right and comfortable shoes, and thickened, hard, reddish skin at the big toe’s base.

    Luckily, there are many natural treatments that can help you get rid of a bunion without surgery and its consequences.

    Please keep in mind that this website does not provide medical advice. Always consult a doctor before trying any new treatment.

    I am the founder of DestroyNailFungus, and I do my best to provide comprehensive guides on health and wellness.

    When I’m not running the site, I enjoy spending time outdoors and drinking coffee.

    How To Prevent Bunions From Getting Worse

    Bunions. Much like any difficult conversation, there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is, they are permanent. That’s right; unfortunately, that protruding bony bump at the base of your big toe is there for good. Unless it is treated surgically, that bunion of yours is here to stay.
    However, there is good news, as promised. There are ways to relieve the pain bunions cause and prevent them from getting worse. Here is how to cope with that discomfort you may be feeling.
    Go out and buy yourself some new shoes. Fight pain with pleasure and invest in some kicks that will support your feet—there are options for both men and women. Avoid shoes with a narrow toe box, and high heels. They may look cute, but these types of shoes will certainly reinforce the misalignment of your big toe, causing the toe to angle towards the second toe even more so.
    Secondly, it is so important to maintain a healthy weight. Did you know that two to three times your actual body’s weight goes into every step that you take? Unless you quit walking entirely, your feet will always be in use, risking irritation of the joint. This fact is inevitable; however, by maintaining a healthy weight, you can lessen the blow. The less pressure put on the joint, means less inflammation thus less pain and swelling.
    Lastly, consider orthotics. Don’t knock it until you try it. Orthotics may have an unfavorable rep on the streets, but no one has to know what is inside your shoes. Besides, in many cases, bunions can be accelerated by improper foot mechanics. In other words, our bodies tend to adapt or overcompensate in other areas, in response to pain. This can cause changes in the way you may walk or stand. Flat feet and/or excessive pronation are linked to the development of bunions and are known to worsen them. Let’s not add insult to injury.
    Luckily, this can all be improved by orthotics made and prescribed by a podiatrist. Orthotics help regulate weight distribution, reducing the pressure put on the big toe joint, which is the ultimate source of your pain. In fact, orthotics can also slow down the development of bunions, by stabilizing the big toe joint and the bones in the foot. For less serious cases, try OTC insoles. For progressive bunions, ask your podiatrist for orthotics custom-made to your foot. Alleviating pain and preventing progression is the ultimate goal.
    These are the top three tips for coping with bunions. Before jumping to surgery, these steps should be taken first. A life with bunions is not the end of the world—it is about finding the fixes that work for you. These three measures may not cure your bunion for good, but hopefully this will help prevent its further development. Give it a try, and contact your doctor for any help.
    Written by
    Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
    DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
    Medical Director,

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