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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:

Bunions on both feet but the one on the right foot is more prominent. Shown on brown skin.
Hard lumps on the sides of your feet, by your big toes.
Prominent bunion on right foot and all toes pointing at 45 degree angle to the right. Shown on white skin.
Your big toe pointing towards your other toes.
Bunion on right foot shown on white skin. The bunion appears swollen and red.
Hard or swollen skin. The bunion may look red or darker than the surrounding skin.

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
Red, hot, swollen skin over the affected joint that comes and goes Gout
Aching, swollen and stiff joints; usually worse in the morning Arthritis
Pain, bruising and swelling after hurting your toe 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 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


  • do not wear high heels or tight, pointy shoes

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the pain 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 also have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

The GP might refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist).

You can also pay to see a foot specialist privately.

Treatments for a bunion from a GP or podiatrist

A GP or podiatrist can advise you about:

  • things you can do to ease your symptoms
  • things you can buy or have specially made to reduce bunion pain, such as 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 effect on your life.

Surgery is not 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:

  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 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 cannot 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

Page last reviewed: 24 August 2020
Next review due: 24 August 2023