10 Step Guide for Treating Bunion Pain

Stages of Bunion Progression

Will my bunion go away on its own?

Patients often ask us, "will my bunion go away on its own?" While the answer, unfortunately, is that it won't, there are things you can do to prevent your bunion from getting bigger.

Not all bunions are caused by the same thing. Both genetics and your lifestyle can lead to developing a bunion. 

If you're a female in your late 40's or older, you're at a much higher risk of developing a bunion than anyone else. Doesn't seem fair does it?!

Bunions usually develop in women who are more likely to wear tight, narrow shoes regularly. Tight-fitting shoes puts pressure on the outside of your toe, gradually pushing it inward. High heels can increase pressure in the front of the foot and lead to various foot problems in some cases.

Over time, you may develop a painful bump at the outer edge of your foot that signals a bunion.

If your foot looks like this, there is good news. You can slow progression of the bunion and avoid worsening pain by following our 10 Step Guide for Bunion Pain Relief.

Neuhaus Foot & Ankle's 10 Step Guide for Bunion Pain Relief


1. Wear wide shoes

Most symptoms of bunions involve pressure from the shoe against the bunion region. This often leads to direct pain over the bunion, swelling, redness and/or blistering. Because narrow shoes push your big toe in, wearing wide shoes can relieve the pressure on your foot.

Sorry ladies, this may mean those favorite pumps will have to go. Opt for flats with plenty of room in the toe box. Avoid shoes that are too short, tight, or sharply pointed, and those with heels higher than a couple of inches.

When buying your next pair of shoes, go to a shoe store with well trained shoe fitters to size your feet. A trained shoe fitter will not only lead you to the best fitting shoes, but can often modify the shoe to fit difficult to fit feet. We highly recommend Fleet Feet and the New Balance stores.

Avoid expensive and high-pressure shoe stores like The Good Feet Store.


2. Get better arch support in your shoes

Supporting your arch will transfer force away from the bunion area. While a high quality pre-made orthotic can help, it will not be as effective as a custom orthotic. If you want to save a few dollars and go the store-bought route, look for Powerstep or Superfeet brands. These two companies are the industry standard for quality over-the-counter orthotics.


3. Stop wearing slippers at home and wear sandals with an arch support instead

The same concept applies as above. Avoid narrow footwear and support your arch as much as possible. Narrow house slippers can push the big toe inward, causing further friction in the bunion area. Arch support can also reduce pressure on the bunion.


4. Wear socks designed to reduce friction and add cushion

Socks made from cotton are not a good option because they cause a higher amount of friction.  Also avoid socks with seams across the toes. These can cause friction and pain to the bunion area. Look for seamless socks. These can be made with a combination of wool and spandex. Compression socks also help avoid friction. If you have diabetes though, avoid compression socks because you don’t want to restrict blood flow to your feet.

5. Wear a protective pad to reduce pressure on the bunion

Bunion pads can help by redistributing pressure away from the affected joint. Make sure to test the pads for a short time period first to ensure they’re reducing pressure, rather than constricting toes even more and making the bunion bump even worse.

6. Use a toe separator

A separator between your first and second toes prevent them from abutting against each other. Toe spacers are best when the big toe is deviated, and in the early stages of bunions, before the big toe becomes more fixed in its position. While this won’t reverse or heal your bunion, it may help straighten your toe joint while wearing it. Some feel immediate pain relief.

7. Ice the bunion for at least 10 minutes every night

This step and step eight both address the swelling that occurs when you’ve been on your feet all day and putting constant pressure on the bunion area. You can reduce the inflammation around the toe joint with consistent ice therapy.

8. Use a topical pain-relief gel over the bunion

Quality topical gels like biofreeze can reduce short term pain and inflammation. Since it's only temporary relief, you may grow tired of continually icing and applying gel over time and the cost will add up. Until you're ready for more advanced treatments, this is a home remedy for treating bunion pain. 


9. Bunion Splints

Bunion splints prevent the first and second toes from pushing against each other. This reduces pressure between the toes and may relieve some of the pain caused by the bunion. It is recommended to use this at night while you sleep. In our opinion, there are better alternatives, like those mentioned above, for relieving bunion pain. Some people have found bunion splints to be an effective short term solution, however. There is no evidence to suggest that bunion splints will correct or straighten the toe, though many products online promise “bunion correction.” Buyer beware.

10. Consider surgery to fix the bunion for good

Neuhaus Foot & Ankle specializes in bunion treatment and we try to treat bunion pain without surgery. Surgery should be a last resort. If we recommend bunion surgery (bunionectomy), it’s because other treatments would be ineffective at best, and a waste of your effort and money at worst.

Those living with bunion pain for years have likely developed a more severe bunion and the treatments listed in this guide will have little impact. Once bunion pain begins limiting your daily activities, surgery can be a very effective option. Not all podiatrists specialize in bunions, so make sure your podiatrist is highly experienced in this area. Ideally, you know someone who has had bunion surgery and they'll be able to refer you to a qualified podiatrist. 

Bunion surgery, or a bunionectomy, is the most effective way to treat your bunion but it's not the only way.

Watch Dr. Neuhaus talk about what to expect after bunion surgery or talk to one of us at Neuhaus Foot & Ankle to see what your bunion treatments are. We'd love to help you to enjoy comfortable, pain-free activities again. 

At Neuhaus Foot & Ankle, we understand how frustrating getting proper treatment for bunions can be. Your patient experience is so important to us, we’ve earned top podiatrist in the area five years in a row. When you have a foot or ankle issue, we hope you see a podiatrist at Neuhaus Foot & Ankle first.

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