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Bunions 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bunions

So you think you have a bunion? What now?

What is a bunion?

Bunions are more than just a cosmetic bump; they are complex 3D deformities of the foot caused by an unstable joint that has rotated out of alignment. Forming over the course of several years, bunions can be seen as a bump at the base of the big toe and tend to be more bothersome than painful in the beginning. Bunions can be mild, moderate or severe. Everyday occurrences like fitting in your favorite shoes or standing on your feet for extended periods of time may be uncomfortable and aggravate bunions.

What does a bunion look like?

A bunion looks like a bump at the base of the big toe, however, the actual root cause, an unstable joint, can be found higher up in the middle of the foot.  That unstable joint is actually what has allowed the bone to drift out of alignment and cause the bump in the first place.

Common bunion symptoms include pain, swelling, pressure, and numbness.1,² Most traditional bunionectomy procedures address the cosmetic aspect only by shaving the bump. While shaving does address the symptom, the root cause remains. 

What causes a bunion?

There are plenty of misconceptions about what causes bunions that we’d like to debunk, especially the myth that bunions are caused by shoes. The truth is: bunions are only aggravated by constrained footwear – not caused by them.2

Causes of bunions actually tend to come from hereditary defects in the foot, resulting in a weak mechanical structure.2 Imbalances of the foot’s anatomical structure are proven to cause bunions as well. Our feet are constantly working to keep our bodies balanced, so any changes in weight or structure can force the bones in our feet to adjust and move. Life experiences such as childbearing or feet expanding as we age can even act as a bunion catalyst. Long story short: once the bones in our feet get out of alignment, trouble can start.

Do high heels & tight shoes cause bunions?

Many people are under the assumption that high heels or pointy shoes that crowd toes cause bunions, but that is simply not true. However, if you were born with any tendency toward mechanical imbalances, these types of shoes do push the foot’s bones into unnatural shapes, which aggravates the condition and causes symptoms to appear earlier in life.1,2

Most people with bunions have a propensity for bunions, because they were born with the deformity in the middle of their foot. Any shoe can contribute to bunion pain, but the higher the heel and tighter the toe box, there is a larger chance of making the bunion worse. High heels can also cause the weight of the body to be unevenly distributed, leading to additional strain on the joint.

Certain occupations where you’re on your feet for extended periods of time may exacerbate the condition as well.

Are bunions hereditary?

Bunions do run in families, which makes genetics one of the leading causes of this complex 3D deformity. Weak mechanical structure (such as foot shape and structure) can result in such defects, proving that bunions are in fact hereditary.2

Because bunions are hereditary, you may have a higher likelihood of developing bunions if your parents or other close relatives had them, but it’s important to note that not everyone with a family history of bunions will get one, and someone without a family history of bunions can still develop them due to other factors like ill-fitting footwear. The best idea is to monitor your foot health, wear shoes that don’t crowd your toes, and always reach out to a doctor if you experience any bunion symptoms or pain.

How do I know if I have a bunion?

You might be asking yourself, “Do I have a bunion?” If the bony bump at the inner base of your big toe has been interfering with your daily life, you should look out for other common symptoms such as your big toe deviating towards the other toes, causing the joint to protrude. Restricted movement in the affected area, such as stiffness or numbness, is also another big bunion sign to be aware of.

You’ll also notice your symptoms may worsen when your toes are crowded or you’re standing for long periods of time. We recommend taking our Am I A Candidate quiz followed by our Find A Doctor search to book a consultation with a Lapiplasty® trained surgeon.

When should I see a doctor about a bunion?

Since bunions are a progressive disorder and will not go away on their own, many bunion doctors stress the importance of receiving an evaluation sooner than later to determine if it’s appropriate to consider surgery, as other issues can develop as the bunion grows.2

Although conservative treatments in the meantime might make you more comfortable while walking (including toe spacers, pads, splints, inserts, and orthotics), they won’t fix the root cause, and additional symptoms (such as arthritis, calluses, hammertoes, and bone spurs) may occur.2

Surgical correction with Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction® may be the solution you’ve been searching for to address your painful bunion.

Take our short quiz & get your bunion assessment to determine if you may be a candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction®

What are the symptoms of a bunion?

Did you know that a quarter of the U.S. population suffers from bunions?6 It makes perfect sense to wonder if you have one. When bunions turn painful and interfere with your normal daily routine, it’s time to take a closer look and see if you need to have your bunion corrected. The top five bunion symptoms1,2 to watch out for are:

  1. A bump on the side of your foot (located at your big toe joint).
  2. The big toe leans in towards your other toes.
  3. Pain at the base of the big toe and/or in the ball of the foot.
  4. Swelling around your big toe joint.
  5. A sensation of pressure or limited movement of your big toe.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we recommend consulting a doctor as soon as possible. While bunions and bunion pain may worsen over time, crowding toes in tight shoes or standing for long periods can certainly exacerbate already aggravated bunions, especially if you have a profession that requires you to constantly be on your feet.

Choosing a bunion treatment can be overwhelming, which is why it’s important to stay well-informed and have your doctor evaluate the right correction for you.

Take our Am I a Candidate quiz to see if the Lapiplasty® Procedure may be right for you, and look for a Lapiplasty doctor in your area.

Bunions vs. gout: how to tell the difference

While bunions and gout can be quite similar in their characteristics as complex foot conditions, they have vastly different causes and remedies. Bunions typically develop and worsen over a long period of time (sometimes even decades) and contribute to additional health issues, such as joint pain. People with bunions have difficulty walking due to the unstable joint in the foot drifting out of alignment.6

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints, leading to inflammation and pain. The reason gout is sometimes confused with bunions is because the toe joint becomes swollen and red, and it can be quite painful as well. Gout comes on quickly as sharp shooting pains, as opposed to the gradual build of bunion discomfort.6

Gout attacks peak after 12-24 hours and usually go away within a few weeks (over-the-counter medicine is available), whereas bunions do not go away on their own and in many cases may require surgery to address the misalignment in the toe bones.2

Bunions vs. Bone spurs: how to tell the difference

Bunions develop when the big toe joint moves out of alignment and deviates towards the other toes, while bone spurs are caused by extra growth on an existing bone and form where ligaments and tendons attach. Bunions exist only on the side of the big toe, but bone spurs are also found on the foot, knee, hip, spine, and even neck. Many people don’t feel the bone spur, unless it eventually pinches the nerve and causes uncomfortable inflammation and numbness.8

As far as pain, bunions are more uncomfortable after activities, but bone spurs are more painful from the get-go. Both bunions and bone spurs might require surgery in severe cases for removal, with a brief period of recovery in a walking boot. The best way to differentiate between the two is an X-ray.8

How are bunions treated?

There are different types of bunion treatments to alleviate bunion pain before deciding if surgery is necessary. First and foremost, wearing shoes that don’t put pressure on your bunion is key. Investing in arch supports, toe spacers, and an anti-inflammatory medicine to help reduce pain are all great temporary solutions as well.

Since bunions don’t go away on their own and progress over time, the Lapiplasty® Procedure may be the solution to get you back on your feet within 3-10 days (in a walking boot) and back to your normal routines.3,4

How are bunions diagnosed?

The first step in bunion diagnosis is scheduling a consultation with your doctor. During your initial clinical exam, your doctor will X-ray your foot to check the severity of your bunion along with any other conditions, determine the health of your bone stock, and ask you questions about your general health to see if you may be a candidate. They will also answer any questions you might have, so that you feel comfortable with all aspects of the procedure, including where the surgery will take place, insurance coverage, how to manage postoperative pain, and what to expect in terms of key recovery time points.

It is important to note that the Lapiplasty® Procedure requires advanced training, and not all doctors offer the Lapiplasty® Procedure. Some doctors may tell you that they “do something similar”, but we recommend that you use our official “Find A Doctor” page to find a true Lapiplasty® user. Both qualified orthopedic surgeons (MDs) and podiatric surgeons (DPMs) utilize Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction® in their practices.

Take our Am I A Candidate quiz to see if you may be a candidate!

How do I get rid of a bunion?

Bunions unfortunately will not go away on their own. While they can’t be reversed, there are non-surgical ways to relieve bunion pain.

Properly fitting shoes that don’t press against the big toe, arch supports, toe spacers and splints, anti-inflammatory medication, and steroidal injections are five initial key ways to treat bunion pain.2

If these alternative methods aren’t working for you, and since bunions grow over time, the Lapiplasty® Procedure may be the solution you’ve been searching for – by rotating the bone back to its normal alignment, the bunion is addressed at the root cause (an unstable joint in the middle of the foot), which also reduces the risk for recurrence.3

What should I do if I think I have a bunion?

If bunion pain is affecting your daily routine, we strongly encourage you to take our short quiz to see if you may be a candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction® : Am I A Candidate? | Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction®

Bunions are a complex 3D problem, and the Lapiplasty Procedure® is a 3D solution. Whether mild, moderate, or severe, the Lapiplasty® Procedure helps patients get back to enjoying the activities they love.

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1 of 4

Select the image below that best describes your bunion.

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In many cases patients who have bunions also have other conditions such as bunionettes, hammertoes, or arthritis – which are often addressed in the same surgery as your bunion correction. However, only a surgeon can assess your particular condition and develop an individual treatment plan.
2 of 4

Please select the level of foot pain you experience most of the time.

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Which of the following most accurately describes where you're at in your bunion treatment process?

(Select all that apply)

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Please provide your email address and zip code below so we can send your personalized bunion assessment results right to your inbox. If you are a candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ surgery, we'll also help you find trained & experienced Lapiplasty® doctors in your area.

*The “Am I a Candidate” assessment should only be completed by patients over the age of 18 or by a parent/legal guardian. This tool does not provide medical advice. This tool is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Only a trained Lapiplasty® doctor can determine if you are an appropriate candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ surgery. Please consult with your doctor to determine if Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ surgery is right for your specific condition. Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ surgery is indicated for patients 12 years of age and older. As with any medical treatment, there are risks and recovery takes time. For a complete list of risks, see the Patient Risk Information. For more info on recovery times, see Recovery. For information about how we handle your information, please see our Privacy Policy. By submitting your information and clicking I agree, you consent to receive information about the Lapiplasty® procedure by email, text, phone, or via online advertising and to our use of your information as described in our Privacy Policy. We will handle your information and communicate with you as stated in our Privacy Policy. See the Privacy Policy for instructions for opting out of receiving automated text messages and phone calls containing marketing materials regarding the Lapiplasty® Procedure.

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Thank you for completing the quiz. Based on your answers, it looks like the Lapiplasty® Procedure may help provide relief for your bunion pain. Take the next step and find a local surgeon today.

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Bunion Pain Can Worsen Without Treatment1

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Unfortunately, you are not a candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™.

Based on your responses, you are not a candidate for Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™. Lapiplasty® is indicated for treatment of bunions (also known as Hallux Valgus) - a bump found at the base of the big toe. If you do not suffer from a bunion, then Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction" is not for you. We wish you good health!

Still think you might be experiencing pain from a bunion?

Here are 5 symptoms to look out for that could make Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ a good option for you:

  1. You're seeing a visual "bump" at the base of your big toe.
  2. Shoes that once fit comfortably now feel too tight or painful to wear.
  3. You experience frequent numbness or tightness in your big toe.
  4. Pain or swelling increases when you stand for long periods of time.
  5. You struggle or are unable to bend your big toe without feeling pain or a burning sensation.

Here are some helpful resources to help you learn more about bunions and your treatment options:

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