Strutting around in stilettos might not be a problem in your teens and 20s. But if you’re only looking at cute flats these days, you may be one of the more than 50 percent of American women who have bunions.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
A bunion appears as a red bump or prominence at the base of the big toe on the inner side of the foot. But bunions are more than skin-deep. A bunion actually reflects a change in the anatomy of the foot over time. What starts as the big toe pointing toward the second toe ends up as a change in the actual alignment of the bones in the foot.
With at least six sets of muscles controlling each toe, it’s no wonder that cramming your feet into narrow, tight or high-heeled shoes can lead to pain.
To reduce your chances of developing bunions, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose footwear that conforms to the shape of your feet.
- Opt for shoes with wide insteps, broad toes and soft soles.
- Stay away from shoes that are short, tight or sharply pointed.
- Don’t wear heels higher than 2 ¼ inches.
- Never force your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit.
If you’ve already developed bunions, try these non-surgical approaches to relieve pain:
- Wear shoes that fit and have adequate toe room.
- Have your shoes professionally stretched.
- Use bunion pads or custom-made orthotics to cushion the area.
- Avoid activities that cause pain, such as being on your feet for long periods of time.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers when necessary.
- Use ice to provide relief from inflammation and pain.
If non-surgical treatment does not provide relief and you are having trouble walking or in extreme pain, surgery may be necessary to return the big toe to its correct anatomical position.