Bunions

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

Bunions on both feet. There are lumps on the sides of the feet below the big toes, but the one on the right foot is bigger.
The main symptoms of bunions are hard lumps on the sides of your feet, by your big toes.
A bunion on a person's right foot. All the toes are pointing at a 45 degree angle to the right.
Your big toe may point towards your other toes.
Bunion on right foot shown on white skin. The bunion appears swollen and red.
You may have hard or swollen skin. The bunion may look red or darker than the skin around it.

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
Foot symptoms and possible causes
Foot symptoms Possible cause
Foot symptoms

Red, hot, swollen skin over the affected joint that comes and goes

Possible cause

Gout

Foot symptoms

Aching, swollen and stiff joints that are usually worse in the morning

Possible cause

Arthritis

Foot symptoms

Pain, bruising and swelling after hurting your toe

Possible cause

Broken toe

How to ease bunion pain yourself

You cannot get rid of bunions or stop them getting worse yourself, but there are things you can do to ease any pain.

Do

  • 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

Don’t

  • do not wear high heels or tight, pointy shoes

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain from a bunion has not improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks
  • the pain is stopping you doing your normal activities
  • your bunions are getting worse
  • you have bunions and diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Treatments for bunions

If you have bunions, a GP will look at your foot and ask you about your symptoms.

They might refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist).

A GP or podiatrist can advise you about:

You can also pay to see a foot specialist privately.

Surgery

A GP may refer you for surgery if your bunions are very painful or they're having a big effect on your life.

Surgery is not done just to improve how your feet look.

What happens during bunion surgery

The most common surgery for bunions is an osteotomy.

This involves:

  1. Making a small cut in the skin over your big toe.
  2. Cutting or scraping away the bunion.
  3. Straightening your toe bone.
  4. 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 when you're asleep under general anaesthetic.

Most people go home the same day.

It can take a while to recover from bunion surgery.

You'll usually need to:

After the operation:

Bunions sometimes come back after surgery.

Information:

Self-refer to a podiatrist

If you have bunions, you might be able to refer yourself directly to a podiatrist without seeing a GP.

To find out if there are any services in your area:

  • ask the reception staff at your GP surgery
  • check your GP surgery's website
  • contact your integrated care board (ICB) – find your local ICB
  • search online for NHS podiatrists near you

How to prevent bunions

The cause of bunions is not always known, but you may be more likely to get them if you wear shoes that do not fit properly.

It might help to:

Page last reviewed: 12 June 2023
Next review due: 12 June 2026