What Are Bunions?

Often described as a bump on the side of the big toe, bunions, are also known as Hallux Valgus or Hallux Abducto Valgus (HAV) amongst medical professionals. A bunion is a misalignment of the bones of the big toe. It happens when the hallux (the big toe) leans towards the second toe instead of pointing forward, causing a bulge to form. This bulge is actually the head of the metatarsal bone protruding.

What Causes Bunions?

Multiple factors can contribute to the formation of a bunion. Most people with bunions have a strong family history of bunions over generations. One may inherit a foot type or walking pattern that impacts foot function, which may result in a bunion to develop.

External factors such as ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear (e.g. pointed shoes or heels) can worsen a bunion. Bunions can also develop much earlier in life, and may become more pronounced during one’s teenage years. This is what we call Juvenile HAV. This is mostly caused by genetics.

How Do I Know If I Have Bunions?

Bunions will appear as a bony bump on the side of the big toe. They may first appear to be swollen, red, tender, or painful around the base of the big toe or ball of the foot. However, there may be no pain at all. The symptoms presented depends on the severity of the deformity.

Bunions are progressive and have 4 stages of development.


How Can Podiatry Help?

Early non surgical treatments can prevent the bunion from worsening and prevent possible pain.

The podiatrist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your legs and feet to identify the cause or reason of the bunion.

Dynamic and static assessments include:

  • Hip examination
  • Knee examination
  • Ankle and foot examination
  • Standing and gait analysis
  • Footwear analysis and advice

From the findings, the podiatrist will be able to construct a treatment plan for you. Treatment may involve the application of general or customised foot orthoses, footwear changes, taping, and/or exercises specific to the foot and lower limb. One important thing to note is that these treatments provided by a podiatrist/physiotherapist will not reverse the changes that have already occurred. Only surgery will be able to reverse the deformity.

In more serious cases where pain is persistent despite the implementation of these conservative treatment methods, your podiatrist may refer you on to an orthopaedic surgeon, as required. Surgery can be an effective option in correcting a serious bunion if proper screening is done to confirm that you are a good surgical candidate.