Why would anyone want to get rid of Paul Bunyan? Oh wait, my bad. Bunion. Not Bunyan. Bunions are a progressive problem; once they develop you’ll have them indefinitely. The only way to truly get rid of bunions is through surgery. But that is not to say that surgery is always the answer. Authorities on the subject – including the American Podiatric Medical Association and the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons – urge bunion sufferers to try conservative, home bunion treatments first. In most cases these strategies can halt the progression of the deformity and make symptoms more tolerable while saving some money.

Non-surgical treatments may even work so well that you’ll think you did indeed get rid of bunions for good. But if you’re not consistent – if you slide back into old habits like wearing sassy, five-inch heels – or you stop protecting your bunions, the symptoms may come back and the progression of the unsightly deformity will continue. Below you’ll find all there is to know about getting rid of bunion symptoms and keeping this affliction in check. If these methods fail, there are some important things to know about bunion surgery. Read the article. See your doctor. The sooner you start treatment, the less likely you’ll have to go under the knife.

What Causes Bunions?

Bunions occur when the big toe joint (metatarsophal-angeal joint) gradually moves out of alignment, sending the base of the joint away from the foot while the big toe begins to clobber its shoe mates. This process can also happen to the pinky toe, resulting in a bunionette or tailor’s bunion. What causes bunions? Many experts say they are most often caused by an inherited foot type – a congenital weakness or susceptibility to bunions. Footwear plays a factor as well, seeing as women are nearly ten times more likely to get bunions. Foot injuries, unnatural gaits or strides, birth defects, and arthritis can also cause bunions. Certain pursuits such as ballet and occupations that require long periods of standing are also risk factors.

Best Ways to Get Rid of Bunions’ Pain and Progression

The right shoes

High heels, pointy shoes, and ill-fitting footwear can all bring about and hasten the progression of bunions. This explains why women are far more susceptible to this deformity. Some medical sources – keen to the female love affair with shoes – just ask women to be reasonable and stay away from heels higher than 2 ½ inches. If you’re going to buy new footwear, look for shoes that conform to your feet but have wide and deep toe boxes as well as soft soles. Like the shoes you have? Take them to a shoe repair shop or cobbler to have them stretched. If you don’t have a repair shop or cobbler near you, you can always try stretching your shoes yourself, using these stretchers sold at Amazon.

Taping and padding

Taping reduces pain by keeping your toe joint in alignment while allowing for normal foot movement. There are many online tutorials for taping, but it’s best to learn from a podiatrist or qualified professional. Bunion pads are used to protect the protruding joint from friction and agitation. Often made from moleskin, these pads prevent cornscalluses, and similar complications that exacerbate bunions and speed up their progression. You can buy bunion pads at any drugstore.

Icing and pain relievers

Get rid of bunion pain with routine icing and OTC pain relievers. Swollen, inflamed and painful bunions often respond well to routine icing. Several sessions a day for ten to twenty minutes can make a big difference. OTC analgesics such as Tylenol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Motrin, or Aleve also work well to control swelling and pain. Be diligent about keeping swelling down to keep bunions from deteriorating further. In some instances, when bunions are extremely painful and are causing immobility, a doctor may administer cortisone injections to get things under control.


Shoe inserts and orthotics are often recommended for bunions. Shoe inserts are used to alleviate bunion pain by redistributing weight and reducing pressure on the big toe joint. There are numerous OTC products exclusively marketed for bunions. A doctor may also give you prescription orthotics – inserts specifically customized for unique foot and bunion.


Get rest, but don’t become a sloth. After a long day on your feet, it is a good idea to put up your bunioned feet (above heart), ice, and relax. But progressive injuries like bunions sometimes cause people to relax permanently – to stop activity. This can heighten the mental anguish of pain as well as decrease overall health. Try exercises that don’t put a lot of stress on your big toe joint such as biking, swimming, canoeing, or even passionate love making.

Surgery: The Only Way to Truly Get Rid of Bunions

If you’ve tried at-home bunion remedies and the deformity keeps marching (awkwardly) towards misery and immobility, it’s time to consider bunion surgery. But this isn’t like getting your appendix out – bunion surgeries are complicated. There are many, many different ways to perform the operation depending on your foot type, how the bunion developed, and how severe it has become. Shortening or lengthening ligaments, removing damaged tissues, shaving or removing bones, realigning the joint, inserting pins or screws, fusing bones – the procedures will depend on your bunion and the expertise of the physician. If you can afford to, get a second opinion – it makes sense with such a complicated operation.

Though most people benefit by having a dramatic reduction in pain and a less insane-looking toe, not everyone is happy with the results of bunion surgery. You’ll undoubtedly have shoe restrictions for the rest of your life (many people ignore this and re-form bunions) and it’s possible that your bunion(s) will return. Infection is always a risk of surgery, and recovery time – even though this is a same-day surgery – can take up to eight weeks. And you’ll need to be proactive about your recovery. Following post-op directives to the letter is important to ensure the success of the procedure.

Bunion Relief Aids and Tips

Toe Spacers

Like taping, these little devices keep your toe joint in correct alignment. They are worn at night while you sleep and many users wear socks to keep them in place. Wearing them during activity is probably a bad idea as this will cause a slight change in your step, which in time can lead to more foot problems. For lack of research and proof of effectiveness, toe spacers are not explicitly recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association and similar authorities. Still, some people do get relief. Worth a shot, right?

Bunion splints and braces

Bunion splints and braces are most often used post-surgery to protect the doctor’s precious work. However, many products are marketed for bunion pain relief. While the APMA and similar authorities do not explicitly endorse or condemn these products, many people use them to great effect. Most – like the FootSmart Bunion Regulator Splint (you can buy it at Amazon) (pictured) – can be worn while sleeping.

Physical therapy

While certainly not the first line of defense against bunions, many people obtain bunion pain relief through physical therapy. Spend some time in the whirlpool, receive some soothing ultrasound therapy, or learn how to correct your creepy, lumbering gait. Ask your podiatrist if physical therapy could help you find relief.

APMA Seal of Approval

If you’re having a hard time finding the right footwear, your podiatrist may have some recommendations or be able to prescribe custom-made shoes. The American Podiatric Medical Association also reviews and endorses products – everything from flip flops and athletic trainers to occupational and professional footwear.

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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland