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Preventing Bunions

Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons at NYU Langone offer expert diagnosis and care for people with bunions, which are large, firm bumps that form on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe.

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Bunions often develop as a result of changes in the bone structure of the foot caused by wearing shoes that squeeze the toes together. As a result, the big toe turns in toward the other toes, and the bones in the joint at the base of the big toe meet at an angle instead of a straight line. This realignment forms a bump, or bunion, beneath the skin.

This change in bone structure distributes the weight of the body unevenly across the foot, putting added pressure on the smaller toes and joints. Poor alignment can cause pain throughout the foot and lead to other issues, such as hammertoe.

Bunions may be red and tender to the touch. They can cause sharp or aching pain that is felt over the big toe joint. Pain usually gets worse during movements such as standing and walking. Severe bunions may also limit the range of motion in the big toe or cause the big toe to overlap the second toe.

It is sometimes unclear why bunions develop. It can be related the shape of your foot or to genetics. However, most people develop bunions as a result of wearing tightly fitting shoes.

Avoid Tight Shoes

Many people get bunions because they wear shoes that are too tight. Shoes that have a narrow, pointed tip squeeze the toes together and force them to turn toward each other. High-heeled shoes add even more stress to the toes by shifting weight off of the heel and onto the front of the foot.

Over time, this unnatural foot position pushes the big toe joint inward and leads to a bunion. Bunions predominantly occur in women, most likely because they tend to wear ill-fitting or high-heeled shoes more frequently.

Because tight, pointy shoes are the cause of most bunions, the best way to prevent this condition is to avoid shoes that have a narrow toe box. Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons at NYU Langone recommend shoes that have one-half inch of space between the toes and the tip of the shoe and provide ample arch support for the middle of the foot.

The size and shape of a person’s foot can change over time. However, many people are unaware of this and inadvertently wear the wrong size shoe. Podiatrists recommend having your feet measured regularly to ensure that your shoes fit properly.

Our Research and Education in Bunions

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.