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One of the most common questions we podiatrists get asked is: Can you correct my bunion? The answer is that bunions can be corrected only by surgery but there are ways we can relieve bunion foot pain without surgery. In fact, non-surgical treatments for bunions should always be the first step, both in the prevention and treatment. There are effective ways to ease and manage pain ranging from methods like proper shoe selection, custom orthotics and foot exercises. Depending on your bunion’s condition and pain levels, non-surgical methods may be all you need. 

It is important to understand the causes of bunions, treatment options, and when to see your podiatrist. Read on to learn about bunions and tips on how to manage them without surgery. 

What are bunions?


A bunion (also known as hallux valgus) is a bony bump on the side of the big toe joint. It occurs when the big toe and long bones in the front part of your foot deviate and move out of place. This can cause pain in the big toe joint when walking, as well as the overlying skin over the bunion getting red and sore from rubbing on the shoe. 

What causes bunions?

The exact cause of a bunion is thought to be a combination of hereditary and lifestyle factors. That means if you have the genetic predisposition for a bunion, wearing tight-fitting or narrow shoes that force your toes together into an unnatural position will cause the bunion to develop due to the extra pressure on your foot joints. It is also possible that people with inflammatory joint conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, might be more likely to develop bunions. 

Additionally, certain foot characteristics can also put you at higher risk of developing a bunion. These include 

  • Flat feet that have excessive roll-in when walking and running 
  • Tight calves and restricted ankle joint motion 

These characteristics cause increased forces on the front of the foot and around the big toe joint. 

Can bunions be reversed?

The short answer is no, bunions cannot be reversed unless you go for surgery. Unfortunately, without undergoing surgery, your bunion cannot be reversed – i.e your toe cannot be straightened (despite what bunion splint/ spacer manufacturers tell you!). 

Bunions also do not go away on their own. It is likely that once you have a bunion, it will likely continue to grow over time unless you take preventative steps. This will help slow down and prevent the progression of the bunion, and also avoid pain and the need for surgery. 

5 Tips from a Podiatrist to Manage Bunions Effectively

  1. Take NSAIDs for short-term pain relief
    • One of the most common bunion symptoms is redness, swelling, and pain of the skin overlying the bunion. This is usually due to constant rubbing and irritation from the side of the shoe, especially if they are narrow and tight fitting. Non-steriodial anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve both swelling and pain so you can quick pain relief. However, this only helps the immediate symptoms. If you regularly get such pain, more needs to be done to avoid recurrence and worsening of the bunion
  2. Footwear changes
    • This is one of the most important steps to manage bunions! A narrow shoe with a pointed toe box will force your toes together and cause the bunion to worsen. Conversely, switching to shoes with a wide toebox that follows the natural shape of your foot can take the pressure off your toes. This will help prevent the bunion from worsening in both symptoms and appearance.
  3. Padding over the bunion head
    • Sometimes you can still get pain from friction between your bunion and shoe despite changing your footwear. In this case, over-the-counter bunion pads or cushions may be helpful. They act as a buffer between your bunion and shoe and ease your pain. Note: splints and spacers do not work to change the alignment of your bunion. If your big toe and 2nd toe rubs due the bunion, spacers can help prevent contact and rubbing.
  4. Strengthening of foot muscles
    • There are little muscles in your foot around the bunion that can control its movement. These muscles are often underused and weak in an individual with a bunion. Exercises to strengthen and stretch these muscles in your feet can help prevent the bunion from worsening over the long term and alleviate pain.
  5. Foot orthotics
    • Another important intervention for the management of bunions are foot orthotics. By contouring your arch and foot, foot orthotics reduce pressure and forces around your bunion during walking and running that can cause your bunion to get worse. This is especially so if you also have flat feet. A well-designed foot orthotic will help you reduce symptoms with your bunion and also prevent worsening in appearance.

Seek Podiatry Help!

If you have a bunion and are concerned about it, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a podiatrist. There are a host of effective, non-surgical options available to help manage it from worsening and to alleviate pain. Don’t live in pain or let your bunion worsen – take proactive steps to tackle it head-on. Drop us a message to explore effective solutions and Walk Without Limits!

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