A bunion, medically known as hallux abducto valgus (HAV) describes the bony bump at the big toe along the ball of the foot. This bump is actually the big toe joint (first metatarsophalangeal joint) that has been pushed out of place, and may also have had some extra growth around the joint.

Bunions get progressively worse over time, starting out as relatively flexible and mobile, and ultimately becoming rigid and permanent changes in the structure of the feet. This can make it very difficult to wear regular footwear, with the sides of the shoes rubbing against the protruding bunion and worsening the problem.

Why have I developed a bunion – is it because they run in my family?

While bunions themselves don’t technically run in the family, sharing a similar foot posture and lower limb characteristics can definitely make you more prone to developing a bunion – if you don’t take measures to control and correct them.

Other common causes of bunions include having an unstable big toe joint and having excess pressure put on your big toe joint while you walk. This may be caused by:

  • Narrow, tight or ill-fitting footwear
  • Regularly wearing high heels
  • Your foot posture
  • Your gait (walking) characteristics
  • Other diseases or trauma

What does having a bunion feel like?

While some people may experience no pain or symptoms other than the changes in the shape and structure of their feet, others may develop pain as a result of the way the body and foot are compensating for this new foot shape. When tight shoes are worn, it is much more likely that the shoes will rub against your bunion, causing pain or blisters.

As your bunion worsens, your big toe may actually start pushing against the lesser toes, ultimately moving over or under them. This results in a foot deformity and decreased stability, balance and general foot function.

What can you do for bunions?

As bunions respond best to different treatments at different levels of severity, caring for your bunion may include manually mobilising the feet and toes, taping, splinting and orthotics. We always assess which options may help both the current status of your bunion and help prevent it from worsening (or its rate of progression) in the future.

Noticed a bunion starting to develop or have had it for years?

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