While some bunions have no symptoms, many become red, swollen, and painful. They can be so painful that it’s hard for you to put a shoe on or walk. Wearing shoes that fit poorly or have high heels can make bunions worse.

Surgery is required to completely get rid of a bunion, but there are things you can do to manage the symptoms from your bunions and stop bunion formation from getting worse.

1. Wear the right shoes. Wear proper footwear. Your shoes shouldn’t be tight, the toe area should be wide, and the heel should be less than 1 to 2 inches. It should also have good support for the arch of your foot.

2. Avoid flip-flops. Avoid wearing flip-flops and other shoes that have no arch support because they put extra pressure on the big toe joint.

3. Know your measurements. Ask the sales person to measure the length and width of your foot when you are buying shoes to help ensure a good fit.

4. Size shoes by comfort not number. Shoes from different companies may be sized differently. Always go by what is comfortable, not by your usual foot size.

5. Use inserts in your shoes, so your foot is in proper alignment and the arch is supported. You can use the kind sold in drugstores or have prescription orthotics made.

6. Stretch your toes. Remove your shoes for a little while and wiggle your toes when you can at work or at home to reduce the pressure on your toes.

7. Space your toes out. Use toe spacers at night or while wearing shoes to reduce the pressure on your toes.

8. Cushion your bunions. Cover your bunions with bunion pads or moleskin to relieve some of the pressure and make the bunion less likely to be irritated by your shoes.

9. Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt to soothe them and reduce inflammation.

10. Ice your foot. Use ice packs to reduce the swelling and inflammation when your bunion gets sore.

11. Take NSAID pain relievers. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce the inflammation and pain.

12. Elevate your feet when you are sitting down to reduce the swelling and pain.

13. Rest your feet several times a day, especially if you have been on them all day.

14. Massage your foot and manually move your big toe around to keep the tissue soft and the toe flexible. Rolling a tennis ball under your foot is a good way to massage it.

15. Do foot exercises. Having weak foot muscles may be associated with more pain and walking problems in people with bunions. Some good exercises to strengthen your foot muscles are:

  • With your heel and forefoot (ball of your foot) on the floor, lift your toes up. Hold for five seconds and release.
  • With your heel and forefoot on the floor, lift your toes and spread them apart. Reach your little toe toward the floor, and then move your big toe toward the inside of your foot. Hold for five seconds and release.
  • With your feet on the floor and your knees bent, lift your heels up while pressing down with your big toe. Hold for five seconds and release.

Your feet should be bare when you do the exercises. Repeat each exercise until your muscles are tired. The exercises can be done while you are sitting, standing on two feet, or standing on one foot. Start in whichever position is comfortable and move up to the next position when you can. You should try to do them every day.

You may be at increased risk of getting bunions if:

  • bunions run in your family
  • your foot isn’t properly aligned so the inside of it supports most of your weight or your foot has a fallen arch (flat feet)
  • you have an inflammatory condition, like rheumatoid arthritis
  • you have a job where you are on your feet a lot

If any of these apply to you or you are starting to get a bunion, there are things you can do to help prevent bunions or stop them from getting worse. Some preventative tips are:

Wear proper shoes

Probably the most important thing you can do to keep your feet happy and help prevent bunions is to wear proper footwear. The best shoes for healthy feet are a little loose on your foot, have a wide toe box, good arch support, and heels that are less than 1 to 2 inches.

If you like high heels, it’s okay to wear them occasionally, but you shouldn’t wear them every day.

Blocky heels, wedges, and platform shoes are better options for shoes with some height since these are more likely to distribute your weight more evenly across your foot or to have a shallower angle which doesn’t push you onto the balls of your feet.

Shoes that you have to tie are better than slip-ons because the laces prevent your foot from moving forward with every step. This motion puts pressure on your big toe joint.

Shop for shoes in the evening

This is the best time to look for shoes. Your feet normally swell during the day, so they’re biggest in the evening. If you buy shoes early in the day, they may end up being tight in the evening.

Your shoes should be comfortable as soon as you buy them. You shouldn’t have to break them in before they are comfortable.

Walk around and make sure the shoes are comfortable and fit well before you buy them. In properly fitting shoes, your toes don’t touch the front of the shoe and you can wiggle them comfortably.

Make sure your foot has the proper support and is aligned properly

If your foot isn’t properly aligned or you have flat feet (fallen arches), wear over-the-counter or prescription orthotics in your shoes. This ensures your foot is aligned correctly and well supported.

A podiatrist (foot doctor) or someone at a home medical supply store can take measurements of your foot and recommend the best shoe and insert for your foot.

There are also splints you can buy that keep your big toe straight but still allows you to walk. Inserts and orthotics also help distribute your weight more evenly on your foot.

Find bunion correctors online.

Stay at a healthy weight

The weight of your body puts pressure on your feet every time you take a step. If you are overweight, your foot and big toe joint are under more pressure than they need to be.

The higher the pressure the toe joint is under, the higher the chance of it developing a bunion or becoming inflamed and sore.

Pamper your feet

Take care of your feet. Soak them in warm water with Epsom salt when they are tired or sore. Use moisturizer so they don’t get too dry. Have someone massage or rub them from time to time. Put them up and rest them at the end of a long day.

The better you take care of your feet, the less likely it is that you will get bunions or other problems. Healthy feet are happy feet.

Bunions are very common. According to the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, in the United States, over 64 million people have them.

A bunion is a boney bump sticking out of the joint connecting your big toe to your foot. It’s actually an enlargement of the joint due to rotation of your big toe bone, with the bottom of the bone moving outward as the top moves toward the other toes.

Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes bunions, but they think that problems with the anatomy of the foot, including over pronation, cause your body weight to shift, placing pressure on your big toe joint. This increased pressure makes the bone move. Doctors also think it’s partially genetic.

Since they may be partially inherited, you can’t guarantee you will never get bunions, but there are many things you can do to help prevent them. If you start to develop a bunion, begin using home treatments as soon as you can.

You can’t get rid of them without surgery, but you can minimize the symptoms and help prevent them from getting worse.