A bunion (hallux valgus) is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe.  It occurs when the big toes points inward towards the second toe, forcing your big toe joint in the opposite direction, away from normal profile of your foot.  Over time the unnatural direction causes the big toe joint to enlarge with extra bone formation which crowds your other toes and a bump to form on the side of your big toe joint.

A bunion shown where the big toe joint protrudes outward as the big toe points inward
A bunion shown where the big toe joint protrudes outward as the big toe points inward

Bunions can be extremely painful.  Since a bunion occurs at a joint where your toe bends while walking, your entire body weight can cause extreme discomfort on it.  Since bunions also protrude from your foot, they also have the tendency to rub against footwear and cause callouses and blisters.  A small fluid-filled sac (bursa) adjacent to the joint can also become inflamed (bursitis), leading to additional swelling, redness, and pain.

Bunions are most common in women.  Wearing tight fitting shoes with narrow tips, or high heels can cause this problem.  Bunions are extremely common with ballet dancers.  There are also inherited genetic factors that are believed to be the cause of bunions, especially when they occur in younger people.

Many non-surgical treatments for bunions exist.  Simply changing your footwear and wearing wider shoes can alleviate a bunion.  Bunion exercises and toe splints can also be used to realign the big toe over time.  There are many over the counter products that can be bought, including bunion pads and bunion night splints to alleviate and sometimes correct this problem.  If correctional methods don’t work, there also exists a surgical option (a bunionectomy).  These procedures typically involve removing the bony growth of the bunion while realigning the big toe.  Proper care and footwear is important following a bunion surgery to reduce the chances of occurrence.

Up next “What Causes A Bunion