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What Are Bunions?

The bone at the base of your big toe connects to a bone in the ball of your foot. The joint is where the 2 bones connect. Normally, the 2 bones lie almost in a straight line, with your big toe pointing straight ahead. But sometimes the big toe starts to turn in towards the smaller toes. This pushes the joint out to the side, causing a bony bump called a bunion. Bunions can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Top of foot showing bones of big toe and moderate bunion.
A bunion  is a small bump on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. It forms when the big toe turns in toward the second toe. This pushes the joint at the base of the big toe out to the inside.

Symptoms of bunions

A bunion often causes pain and swelling around the joint at the base of the big toe. The skin may become red or warm. If the big toe pushes under the second toe, a painful corn may form on the top of or inside the second toe. In some cases, bunions cause no symptoms other than making the foot harder to fit in a shoe.

What can be done

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Wearing shoes that are roomy across the toes and that have low heels (less than 2 inches) will help keep a bunion from getting worse or causing pain.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about pads and inserts to help prevent corns and to cushion the bunion.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about bunion surgery and whether it is right for you.


Your feet tend to get larger as you age. That means you may need to increase your shoe size from time to time to ensure that your shoes fit your feet comfortably.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/10/2015
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