Do Bunions Always Require Surgery?

If you have a bony protrusion on the side of your big toe and it’s painful, especially when you walk, you probably have a bunion. You no doubt want quick relief if walking is painful.

Why did you develop a bunion? Genetics plays a strong role. If one of your parents had a bunion, you’re more likely to develop one. Your body’s biomechanics can contribute to bunions. Your gait may put too much pressure on your big toe, causing it to turn inward toward your second toe. Over the years, the bone structure changes. Improper footwear can also cause bunions.  

At Animas Foot & Ankle, our doctors regularly treat patients with bunions. They order X-rays, examine your foot, and look at the way you walk. The X-rays show the extent of bone deformity the bunion has caused and help guide treatment.

If your bunion isn’t causing severe pain, surgery isn’t recommended. Conservative treatments can ease mild to moderate pain and other symptoms.

Non-surgical bunion treatments

Following are some of the common treatments to ease bunion symptoms.


Over-the-counter pain medication can lessen discomfort and ease inflammation temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Long-term use of pain medication can cause internal organ damage.

Footwear change

Your doctor may ask you about the type of shoes you wear. If you’re a woman who wears high heels with pointed toes, you need to change your footwear. These shoes put extreme pressure on the balls of your feet and cram your toes together.

Wearing shoes with enough space for all of your toes to lie flat can make an immediate difference in how your foot feels. Visit a shoe store where the staff can measure your foot length and tell you whether you should wear wide, medium, or narrow shoes. Shoes that fit properly are a must if you have a bunion. Letting your toes breathe may help stop bunion progression.


Your physician at Animas Foot & Ankle observes your gait — or how you put pressure on your feet when you walk. If you’re overpronating, your foot rolls inward as you walk. This puts an abnormal amount of pressure on your big toe and second toe. Constant overpronation can cause bunions to develop, among other foot problems.

Your doctor may recommend orthotics, or special shoe inserts that help correct faulty foot biomechanics and the biomechanics of your gait. Orthotics typically have arch support and embedded heel support to help stop your foot from rolling inward.

At your appointment, a technician takes an impression of both your feet. Your doctor prescribes orthotics with the type of support you need. A lab manufactures the orthotics to the exact specifications for your foot.

Taping or splinting

Your doctor may suggest taping the toe, especially when you engage in sports activity. Zinc oxide tape goes around the toe and around the middle of your foot. Foam between the big toe and the second toe secured with tape can also help relieve pressure and pain.  

Several types of bunion splints are available that help support the big toe. Your doctor lets you know if a splint is appropriate.


A cortisone injection can relieve pain and swelling. It’s not a permanent solution, but a stop-gap measure that can last several weeks or months.

If none of these treatments works to relieve bunion pain, surgery can bring needed relief. Call or book an appointment online with Animas Foot & Ankle for expert treatment of your bunion and all of your foot and ankle needs.

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