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What You Can Do To Get Pain Relief From Bunions

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A bunion—a bony bump at the base of the big toe—causes pain in the big toe. Although you don't always need surgery to correct the condition, bunions can get worse over time if you don't treat them. If you ignore the problem, a bunion can get bigger, or you may eventually develop arthritis in the toe joint. However, you can help avoid complications by knowing when you should see a podiatrist and what steps you can take to get relief from bunion pain and discomfort.


While redness, soreness, and swelling around your big toe joint are signs you may have a bunion, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor or a podiatrist (such as one from Affiliated Ankle & Foot Care Center) if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Your big toe turns inward toward the other toes

  • Persistent pain in your big toe or foot

  • Bulging bump on your big toe joint that makes it hard to find shoes that fit properly

  • Joint stiffness or difficulty moving your big toe


Shoes usually don't cause bunions, but wearing the wrong kind of shoes can make bunions you have hurt worse. Treatment focuses on relieving pressure in the big toe joint; therefore, it makes a difference what type of shoe you wear.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends not wearing shoes that don't fit. No matter how stylish a shoe looks, stay away from styles that are too tight, narrow, or have pointed toes. Instead, wear shoes that conform to the shape of your feet.

What to look for in shoes:

  • Extra room in the toe box—more room means less pressure and less pain

  • Wide, flexible sole to support your foot

  • Sturdy heel counter to keep the heel of your foot in place

  • Heels no higher than 2-¼ inches -- higher heels put more pressure on the front of your foot

  • Stretchable shoe to fit the contours of your foot

Since some shoe materials are easier to stretch than others, sport shoes or shoes with a soft upper are better for your toes. Shoe designs that combine suede leather and spandex are examples of stretch materials that help take pressure off bunions.

You can stretch shoes (particularly in the toe area) yourself by using a ball and ring shoe stretcher -- a tool that looks something like a long pair of pliers. If stretching shoes still doesn't give you a more comfortable fit, go with an open-toe style for maximum comfort.

The right shoe can help relieve bunion pain but sometimes it isn't enough. You may need to rely on additional remedies to get bunion pain relief.

Steps you can take to ease bunion discomfort:

  • Buying over-the-counter semi-soft shoe inserts or arch supports to take pressure off the bunion—your podiatrist may recommend custom orthotics

  • Placing a gel-filled pad over the bunion

  • Wearing socks with no toe seam to reduce friction over the bunion

  • Choosing socks made of synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester produce less friction—100 percent cotton socks aren't a practical choice because of high friction

  • Wearing sandals that provide arch support to decrease pressure on your big toe joint

  • Wearing a toe splint at night to prevent your big and second toes from rubbing against each other while you are sleeping