A bunion (hallux valgus) is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint). Home treatment can help relieve toe pain and may prevent a bunion from getting worse. Home treatment includes:
- Avoiding activities that put pressure on your big toe and foot. Don't give up exercise because of toe pain. Try activities that don't put a lot of pressure on your foot, such as swimming or bicycling.
- Wearing roomy shoes that have wide and deep toe boxes (the area that surrounds the toes), low or flat heels, and good arch supports. Avoid tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes that put pressure on the big toe joint. For more information, see:
- Foot problems: Finding the right shoes.
To relieve toe pain:
- Use nonprescription medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If you have other health conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or gastrointestinal problems such as gastritis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), talk to your health professional about which pain reliever is best for you.
- Apply ice to the joint for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, 3 or more times a day. Elevate your foot so that your toe is higher than your heart.
- Try bunion pads, arch supports, or custom-made supports (orthotics) placed just behind the big toe joint on the bottom of your foot. This redistributes your weight while you are walking and takes pressure off your big toe. Ask your health professional to help you choose the right kind of pads. One review of studies has indicated that compared with no treatment, orthotics reduced bunion pain after 6 months of use but made no difference in pain after 12 months of use.1
- Put moleskin or felt patches over or around pressure areas, to protect the bunion from being rubbed by your shoes.
- Stretch the parts of your shoes that rub on painful areas. Look for a shoe repair shop or cobbler that stretches shoes, or ask your health professional to recommend one. You may also want to find a shoe manufacturer that makes special or custom shoes for people with foot problems.
For children with bunions, using orthotic insoles to correct a walk where the foot rolls inward (excessive pronation) is questionable. Some studies indicate that:1
- Bunions in children may not be related to pronation.
- Using orthotic insoles designed to reduce pronation in children may result in a making the bunion worse.
Children who develop bunions should see a doctor if foot pain is limiting their activity. In some cases, the doctor may recommend surgery.