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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini


A normal toe with straight joints, compared with a bunion, where a misaligned enlarged bone causes a bunionA bunion is an enlarged bone at the base of your big toe, caused by the joint being misaligned.

Technically, the misaligned position of your big toe is called hallux valgus while the enlarged 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). As your big toe bends towards the others, this lump becomes larger and the bunion can become painful. You may also have some redness or swelling around the joint, and eventually you can develop arthritis and stiffness.

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 are also more likely to get an ingrown toenail.

How are bunions treated?

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

Things you can do yourself

Things a podiatrist can do

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.


Even though you can manage any 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 doctor or podiatrist about being referred to a foot surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon.

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

Written by Podiatry NZ. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2016.


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