If you've ever felt a stabbing or burning pain in your big toe or at the side of your foot, you may be all too familiar with the pain and discomfort bunions can cause. Surgery is the only way to fully cure a bunion and is a suitable treatment for the most severe cases. However it is often associated with a long - and painful - recovery process. Thankfully, there are some less invasive ways to treat mild to moderate discomfort.

What is a bunion?

Bunions, or hallux valgus as the condition is medically known, develop slowly over time. The big toe begins to lean toward the second toe, gradually deforming the base of the joint until a lump appears on the side of the foot. The term bunion relates to the visible lump, but the problem also affects the metatarsal joint inside the toe.

If you're a sufferer, you're far from alone, with bunions being one of the most common conditions seen by podiatrists.

How can I treat mine?

  • If you are suffering from bunions, it's time to take look in your shoe cupboard. Ill-fitting shoes which don't support the foot correctly will aggravate symptoms and too tight footwear can put pressure on the joint causing further pain. Heels and pumps should be avoided, and they can even be the cause of the bunion in the first place. Find a comfortable, wide-fitting and supportive shoe to minimize discomfort. Leather is a good choice as it stretches around the problem zone.
  • Bunion splints can help provide relief and prevent the joint from becoming more damaged, although there is no concrete evidence that they can effectively correct a bunion. A padded splint runs along the inside of the foot and forces the big toe into a more normal position. Day and night-time splints are available; be sure to choose wide footwear if you decide to wear one in the day, or the pressure inside your shoe could be counter-productive. 
  • Orthotics are removable inserts designed to slip into the shoe and correct abnormal walking patterns. They are available over the counter or can be custom-made by a podiatrist.Regular use can provide pain relief as they alter the alignment of the foot. However, there is little evidence that orthotics alone can undo the damage which causes bunions to form.
  • Simple foot exercises can also slow down the deformation of the joint. Try gently flexing your toes against the floor or wall and holding for 10 seconds, repeating four or five times. You can also try holding your big toe in its rightful alignment for ten seconds at a time. Placing a small ball under the foot and rolling it around on the floor can also ease tension and strain in the foot. 

However you decide to tackle your bunions, it's important to be consistent and stick to your treatment to keep further damage at bay. Talk with a podiatrist from a clinic like Walk Without Pain if you have specific questions about ways to lessen the pain in your feet.