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Repe kōiwi ā-waewae

A normal toe with straight joints, compared with a bunion, where a misaligned enlarged bone causes a bunionA bunion is misaligned bones in your big toe joint. When you have a bunion, the bump at the side of your foot becomes more prominent, because the bone protrudes out the side of your foot rather than sitting straight forward.

As your big toe bends towards the others, the bump becomes larger, and the bunion may become painful. You might also have some redness or swelling around the joint, and eventually you can develop arthritis and stiffness.

Technically, the misaligned position of your big toe is called hallux valgus, while the protruding joint is the bunion. But most of the time, the two go together and are simply called bunions.

Bunions are usually caused by a combination of the feet you were born with and badly fitting footwear (usually shoes with a narrow toe).

Bunions can also follow foot injuries and trauma. People with flat feet or inward-rolling (pronated) feet seem to be more likely to have bunions. Some activities, such as ballet, put added pressure on the joint, increasing the chance of a bunion.

You might also get corns and calluses on the bunion, your big toe and second toe, caused by altered pressure from footwear. You're also more likely to get an ingrown toenail.

Treating bunions

How your bunion is treated depends on how bad it is and what is causing it. Bunions almost always get larger and more painful with time, but you can help to slow down the progress.

Even though you can manage the symptoms without surgery, surgery is the only way to get rid of a bunion. It usually involves correcting the angle of the joint. Talk to your general practice team or podiatrist about being referred to a foot surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon.

Self-care for bunions

Getting help for bunions

A podiatrist can help you to manage any symptoms from your bunion and advise what is the best treatment for you. This may include:

You can find a podiatrist by searching on Podiatry NZ's website.

There is very limited access to foot surgery through the public system, so you may choose to see a private orthopaedic surgeon.

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Written by Podiatry NZ. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


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