Hallux Valgus - Bunions

The hallux, commonly known as the big toe is one of five digits located on the front of the foot. The primary function of the big toe is to provide additional leverage to the foot in assisting it to push off the ground during running, walking, or pushing things. The big toe and the little toe collectively assist in maintaining the body's balance.


Hallux Valgus, most commonly referred to as a bunion is a common foot condition when a bony bump forms on the inside of the forefoot at the base joint of the first metatarsal (big toe). A bunion is formed when the first metatarsal pushes against the second metatarsal, forcing the joint of the big toe to enlarge and stick out. Generally, this is due the uneven weight dispersal on the joints and tendon in the feet. In some cases, smaller bunions (bunionettes) can develop on the join of your fifth metatarsal (pinky toe).

The contribution of footwear on the development of bunion is an unresolved discussion, however some causes include: previous injuries to the foot, any congenital deformities, or a family history of bunions. Bunions may also be associated with certain types of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.


Most individuals who have developed a bunion experience the following symptoms:

  • A bulging bump on the base of the big toe, on the inside of the foot
  • Thickening of the skin around the big toe joint
  • Swelling, redness, or soreness around the big toe joint
  • Calluses or corn formations between your big and second toe
  • Pain that is intermittent or persistent
  • Restricted movement of the big toe

Bunions generally don't require medical treatment, but if symptoms persist and are affecting day to day activity, consulting a physician is highly recommended.


Diagnosis of bunions is fairly easy and can be made entirely upon physical examination. The physician will examine the foot, specifically the big toe, for the symptoms mentioned above and to determine the range of motion. The physician may order an X-ray of the foot to help identify the severity of the condition as well as the cause.


Treatment of bunions varies depending on the severity of the bunion and the amount of pain it causes. The initial treatment of a bunion should always be non-operative. More often than not, symptoms are greatly reduced with simple, non-operative methods. Surgery should only be considered for bunions that are extremely painful, and NOT for cosmetic correction.

Bunion Pads - Available at many drugstores, these bunion pads aim to decrease the associated inflammation and irritation over the bump, especially when combined with comfortable, non-constrictive shoes.

Properly-Fitted Shoes - Comfortable, non-constrictive shoes made out of soft material can be extremely effective in reducing the irritation over the bunion.

Toe Spacer - When placed between the big toe and the second toe, a toe spacer will help reduce the bunion deformity and as a result, decrease the irritation and associated inflammation. These are also readily available at most drugstores.

Bunion Splints - Similar to toe spacers, bunion splints can help to reduce the bunion deformity.

Surgery - Surgery should only be considered for bunions that are extremely painful and not for cosmetic correction purposes. Despite the fact that symptom-free bunions can grow in size over time, operative treatment is not recommended unless there is unbearable pain due to the prolonged recovery time along with the potential for complications. In-depth discussion needs to occur between the patient and the physician when considering bunion surgery and the type of surgery.


Recovery, especially after a surgery, can take several weeks if not months. Each patient is unique and their recover will depend on the treatment method prescribed by the physician.



The information provided on this website or through links to other sites, is for patient education purposes only and NOT a substitute for professional medical care. This website contains general, non-exhaustive information about common conditions and treatments and should not be used in the place of a visit or the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. Reliance on the information appearing on this site and any linked sites is solely at your own risk.