What’s a Bunion — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What’s a Bunion — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

“Bunion” may sound like a frightening word, but trust us, it isn’t. Ultimately, this issue comes down to properly caring for your feet. 

When you think bunion, you may remember a scene from the popular television show, Parks and Recreation. It’s where Andy Dwyer, the shoeshiner, meets Ron Swanson, a venerable, no-nonsense City Hall employee with a plaguing foot issue. But rather than seeing Andy for a shoeshine, Ron pays for a royal foot care treatment on his bunion that goes comically awry.

Bunions aren’t only an issue for older folks. Contrary to popular belief, they can affect younger individuals, too. That’s why it’s important for all ages to consider the proper preventative care to avoid any potential problems. 

Orthopedist at work checking patient’s foot

What is a bunion then? 

A bunion is a bump that forms on the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of your big toe. (A “bunionette” or “tailor’s bunion” can sometimes form on your foot’s smallest toe.) Bone or tissue in this area moves out of its natural position, causing the big toe to bend towards the other toes.

MTP joints carry much of your body weight. Between walking and everyday activities, friction and stress ensue, and the pain of a bunion progressively worsens. Even shoes become more difficult or impossible to wear.

Foot Massage
Young woman massaging her painful foot from exercising and running

How do I know if it’s a bunion or something else? 

Here’s a simple checklist of symptoms:

A solid bump begins to form at the base of your big or littlest toes.

There’s swelling, redness, or pain near your toes’ respective MTP joints (found at the base of each toe).

Pain restricts your big toe from movement.

The toes following your big toe become irritated, sometimes forming corns — i.e., thickened areas of skin that feel painful.

Why does this happen?

There is a range of reasons why this condition occurs. From genetics to injuries and more, it’s a foot deformity precipitated by abnormal pressure and motion.


One of your parents possessed poor foot mechanics. This trait, passed on through genes, can create the circumstances for bunions to form. As a child, defective foot development like this establishes the conditions for atypical stress exerted on and within the feet. (Hammertoes, along with bunions, can also emerge as a result.)

You have flat feet or low arches.

Arthritis and/or an inflammatory joint disease

Foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities

Jobs and/or hobbies that add unnecessary pressure on the feet, such as ballet dancing

Your shoes are too tight.

Prevention and ongoing care

There are ways you can significantly alleviate and avoid the annoyance of a bunion.

Here’s how:

If you have little to no arches, wear supportive shoes, or grab custom foot inserts from your local podiatrist.

Refrain from wearing shoes with little toe room.

Visit your podiatrist upon the initial signs of a bunion forming. (Early treatment stops a bunion in its tracks. Waiting to approach this issue may result in costly surgery, not to mention, pain.)

Contact us today to set up an appointment to begin your recovery.

Are you interested in learning more about foot care and prevention? Follow us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, or Linkedin for updates.