If you experience pain from a bunion, home treatment may ease the discomfort. In cases of severe pain, surgery can realign the affected joint and correct the bunion.

A bunion is a bump on the side of your big toe. It develops at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP) at the base of the toe. When the bones of the MTP joint move out of place, a bunion forms. The joint becomes bigger and inflamed.

Many people get bunions because of a family history. Some medical conditions also lead to bunions. Whatever the root cause of a bunion, some factors like wearing tight shoes can make it worse.

Bunions don’t always cause pain. In cases where it does, treatment is available.

Bunion pain can be mild or severe and it may be worse when you wear shoes.

Inflammation and swelling of the joint may cause tenderness and warmth. Sometimes, a bunion causes nerve damage that leads to numbness.

You may feel pain at the big toe joint near the bunion, or near the bottom of your foot.

You may experience bunion pain when you wear tight fitting shoes, as this places more pressure on the toes. Since the bunion causes inflammation of the big toe joint, you may have pain while walking because each step involves this joint.

Bunions can increase your risk for osteoarthritis in the toe. If this type of arthritis develops, you may experience chronic or ongoing pain.

Steps you take at home may decrease bunion pain. Consider:

  • open-toed shoes or shoes with a wide toe box (shoes that best fit your foot’s shape)
  • silicone foot pads inside your shoes may relieve pressure on the bunion (available over the counter)
  • splint worn at night that straightens the toe
  • custom orthotics or foot insoles to help with shoe fit
  • medications like ibuprofen to reduce swelling

If your bunion pain is the result of arthritis, a doctor may prescribe other medications.

Bunion pain is often the result of pressure on the toes from shoes. To make walking easier, consider these options:

  • Walk barefoot.
  • Wear roomy and comfortable shoes.
  • Strap or tape your toe to avoid pressure.
  • Wear orthotics or cushioning pads.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling.

You may also try choosing shoes with a stiff sole. This prevents the big toe joint from flexing as much as with a softer-soled shoe. This may help if your bunion pain is from arthritis in the joint.

You can also place an ice pack on the bunion after you finish walking to reduce the swelling.

You may want to speak with a doctor when your bunion pain doesn’t get better with home treatment. A doctor may recommend first-line treatments like changing shoes, trying cushioning pads, or taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications.

Doctors may also advise you to try muscle-strengthening or stretching exercises to relieve your foot pain.

Your doctor may recommend prescription medications if the bunion is from a secondary condition like osteoarthritis. In some cases, they may recommend surgery to correct the bunion and straighten the toe.

A doctor can offer additional help if your bunion pain interferes with your ability to walk or causes significant discomfort.


Your doctor may inject cortisone into the big toe joint to reduce pain or swelling. This can be particularly effective if you have arthritis. Cortisone is not a permanent solution and the pain and swelling can return.


Orthotics are custom insoles designed to fit your foot. Compared to OTC shoe inserts, they may better help cushion and support the foot and prevent excessive pressure on the bunion.

A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis of studies found that the most effective orthotics or other devices for relieving bunion pain had a toe spacer or other feature that straightened the toe.

Bunion surgery

If you’ve tried changing your shoes or using orthotics and still experience pain or have trouble walking, a doctor may recommend bunion surgery. Surgery to correct a bunion is only done to relieve pain and not to make the foot look more aesthetically pleasing.

Bunion surgery realigns the bone and tissues like the tendons, ligaments, and nerves. It straightens the toe and puts the joint back into place.

Not all bunions are painful. If you have a bunion but do not experience pain, you can prevent pain by stopping the bunion from getting worse. Proper footwear to prevent toe crowding and stretching the toe muscle with a splint at night are two ways to stop the bunion from getting bigger.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about bunion pain.

What causes bunions?

Medical conditions that can change foot shape, such as rheumatoid arthritis and cerebral palsy, or cause nerve damage, such as diabetes, may cause bunions. Foot injury and family history of bunions are also risk factors.

Can you shrink bunions naturally?

Only surgery can correct a bunion. Nonsurgical treatment like wider shoes, padding, and orthotics can reduce pain and stop bunions from getting worse.

Is throbbing bunion pain worse at night?

There is no specific research to indicate throbbing bunion pain is worse at night. If you experience pain in your foot at night, you may want to try a splint to stretch out the joint. It will not permanently correct the bunion but may relieve stiffness.

What complications can occur if you don’t treat a bunion?

Bunions don’t need to be treated if they don’t cause you pain or discomfort. A bunion can get bigger and become painful if you wear tight shoes. Bunions can increase your risk for osteoarthritis that leads to chronic pain.

Bunions are a lump on the outside of the big toe. They only need treatment if they cause discomfort. Wearing well-fitting shoes can prevent a bunion from getting worse. If the bunion makes it hard for you to walk or is very painful, you may be able to get surgery to realign the joint.