A bunion occurs when the joint at the base of your big toe becomes enlarged, sore and swollen. Your big toe may start to angle toward your second toe, or move underneath it.

Despite common misconceptions, footwear doesn’t cause bunions. If you have inherited the tendency to develop bunions then high heels or tight shoes can make them worse. 

This inherited problem is more common in women. Research has also demonstrated that by about 12 years of age the bunion will stabilise in males, with only minor progression. Women will continue to develop bunions, even in appropriate footwear.



A podiatrist can  diagnose a bunion during a physical exam. An X-ray may provide further information about the joint, the angle of the toe, and whether arthritis or gout are implicated.

X-rays also can help identify the cause of the bunion.Generally this condition is associated with pronated feet. What is often a confounding factor is if the bone in the mid foot is a wedge shape the only position the first metatarsal can assume is to move outward.


The easiest and most immediate treatment is to prevent rubbing on the joint as this will cause the joint to enlarge and this is irreversible. Wearing comfortable shoes with a wide toe-box at the first signs of a bunion appearing can decrease its growth and reduce any further complications.

Secondly, it is important to reduce the amount of pronation during gait. If there are no other complications this will prevent the bunion from worsening. Unfortunately if there is also a problem with the mid-foot, treatment will have reduced effectiveness.

The earlier treatment is sought the better, as it is possible to reduce the amount of associated toe displacement.

Without Treatment

Ignoring a bunion will lead to increased pain and the chance of contracting bursitis, when the small fluid-filled sac next to the joint becomes inflamed. Depending on how severe your bunion is, your foot can continue to cause chronic pain.