Medical Treatment for Bunions

Many people find that foot padding and shoe inserts ease bunion pain and swelling in the foot, making walking more comfortable. There are many types of over-the-counter pads and shoe inserts available. Our podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons recommend the right type for you based on the size of the bunion and the extent of change in the bone structure of your foot.

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For severe bunions, our podiatrists can custom-fit a shoe insert to redistribute stress away from the affected joint, relieving discomfort. Medications can also make walking more comfortable for people who have bunions.

Over-the-Counter Padding

Most drugstores offer a variety of bunion pads in different shapes and sizes. These come in many materials, shapes, and sizes, including fabric and gel. Some wrap around the toe and others use adhesive to stick to your skin. This relieves the pressure and pain caused by the bunion rubbing against the shoe, making walking easier.

Orthotic Inserts

Orthotic inserts are placed under your foot in your shoes. Often, these products are made from foam or gel, and they conform to the curves of your foot in some places while providing firm support in others.

Orthotic inserts are an important part of treatment for bunions, because they redistribute the weight of your body more evenly across the bones and joints of the foot. By shifting pressure away from painful and swollen areas, orthotic inserts can effectively relieve pain due to metatarsalgia, the swelling of the ball of the foot, or a neuroma, which is inflammation in a nerve that travels between the bones of the feet and toes.

Doctors at NYU Langone recommend orthotic inserts for most people pursuing nonsurgical treatment for bunions. Our podiatrists help you find the right over-the-counter brand, or they can custom-fit a shoe insert to the exact shape and size of your foot.

Custom orthotic inserts typically take two to three weeks to make. After the inserts are ready, you meet with your podiatrist to ensure they fit correctly.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Our doctors may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and relieve pain in the foot and toe affected by a bunion. NSAIDs are taken by mouth.

Many of these medications, including ibuprofen and naproxen, are available without a prescription. If these medications aren’t working to ease your bunion-related pain, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication.

Whether your doctor recommends over-the-counter or prescription NSAIDs, he or she can advise you on the correct dose and the length of treatment. NSAIDs may cause side effects, including nausea and stomach ulcers, so prolonged use is monitored by a doctor.

Our Research and Education in Bunions

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