What Are Bunions?

If you’re like many people, your big toe may lean slightly toward your other toes. Over time, the base of the big toe pushes outward against the first metatarsal bone, which is directly behind it.


The result is a bunion -- a bony, often painful hump at the base of the big toe.

Bunions form at a joint. That’s where the toe bends normally when you walk. But when you have a bunion, all of your body weight rests on it each time you take a step. It can hurt when you walk. And, because your shoe likely rubs against it, a bunion can also cause calluses to form.


Foot problems typically start in early adulthood. As we age, our feet spread, and the problems tend to get worse.

Bunions can run in the family. They may be just one of many problems caused by weak or poor foot structure. Sometimes, they develop with arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis or gout. If one of your legs is longer than the other, you may develop a bunion on the big toe of the longer one.

Women are more likely to get them than men. That’s because wearing tight shoes -- and especially high heels -- pushes the foot bones into an unnatural shape over time.


Take a look at your foot. See where the bottom of your big toe connects to your foot? If you see a bony bump there with your big toe headed in the opposite direction, you probably have a bunion. It may sometimes swell, turn red, feel tender to the touch, or even hurt. Over time, it may also become shiny and feel warm when you touch it.

When to Call a Doctor

If you have pain when you’re walking in flat shoes that should feel comfortable, make an appointment with a podiatrist (a foot specialist). It could be a bunion or some other problem.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on March 31, 2019


Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine.
National Health Services Direct (U.K.).
PubMed Health: "Bunions."

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