Bunions are bony lumps that form on the side of the feet. Surgery is the only way to get rid of them, but there are things you can do to ease any pain they cause.
Check if you have bunions
Symptoms of bunions include:
You may also have pain along the side or bottom of your feet. This is usually worse when wearing shoes and walking.
If you're not sure it's a bunion
How to ease bunion pain yourself
You can't get rid of bunions or stop them getting worse yourself, but there are things you can do to relieve any pain:
- wear wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole
- hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time
- try bunion pads (soft pads you put in shoes to stop them rubbing on a bunion) – you can buy these from pharmacies
- take paracetamol or ibuprofen
- try to lose weight if you're overweight
- wear high heels or pointy, tight shoes
See a GP 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
Your GP might refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist). You could also pay to see a foot specialist privately.
Treatments from a GP or podiatrist
A GP or podiatrist can advise you about:
- things you can do to ease your symptoms, such as wearing wide shoes that don't squash your toes
- things you can buy or have specially made to reduce bunion pain, such insoles (orthotics), toe spacers and toe supports (splints)
A GP may refer you to a surgeon if your bunions are very painful or having a big impact on your life.
Surgery isn't done just to improve how your feet look.
Surgery for bunions
Surgery is the only way to get rid of bunions.
What happens during bunion surgery
The main operation for bunions is an osteotomy. This involves:
- making a small cut in the skin over your big toe
- cutting or scraping away the bunion
- straightening your toe bone
- fixing your toe bone in place with metal screws or staples put under your skin – these are often left in permanently
Surgery is usually done under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep). Most people go home the same day.
It can take a while to recover from surgery. You'll usually need to:
- stay off your feet as much as possible for at least 2 weeks
- avoid driving for 6 to 8 weeks
- stay off work for 6 to 12 weeks
- avoid sports for up to 6 months
After the operation:
- your toes might be weaker or stiffer than before
- they may not be perfectly straight
- your feet might still be slightly wide, so you'll probably have to keep wearing wide, comfy shoes
Bunions sometimes come back after surgery.
You can't always prevent bunions
The cause of bunions is unknown. It's not clear if you can do anything to prevent them.
It might help to:
- make sure your shoes are the correct size and have enough room for your toes
- avoid shoes with high heels or pointy toes
If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.