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Last updated October 27, 2021

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What is a bunion?

A bunion is a painful swelling or bump at the base of the big toe. It develops over time. As the big toe bends toward the other toes, it causes the bump to push out farther.

Wearing tight, narrow, and poor-fitting shoes increases the risk of getting a bunion. Arthritis may make you more likely to develop bunions. Around 23% of adults in the U.S. have bunions, and they are more common in women and older adults.


The goal of treatment is to slow or stop bunions from getting worse and to help ease any discomfort they cause. Doctors often recommend a range of approaches including supportive shoes, bunion pads, shoe inserts, ice packs, and pain medications.

Bunion pads cushion the bunion to prevent irritation from rubbing against the shoe. Placing shoe inserts in wide, flat shoes can help improve the mechanics of foot motion and decrease the amount of force on the big toe.

If your bunion causes severe pain that does not improve with these treatments or it significantly limits your activities, surgery may be suggested. The recovery time from bunion surgery can be lengthy, and you may need to continue wearing more supportive shoes even after surgery.

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