Bunion Symptoms

Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Bunion Symptoms: Find out about the common causes, symptoms and best treatment options for foot bunions

Foot bunion symptoms range from a small, painless lump on the big toe to a large deformity and severe pain that limits day-to-day activities such as walking. 

Bunions develop when one of the bones in the big toe shifts out of position, causing a lump on the outer side of the toe, known as a hallux valgus or bunion

Bunion symptoms usually develop gradually over time and get progressively worse if not treated correctly.

Bunions are typically caused by either long-term wearing of tightly fitting shoes, your genes (if your mum has bunions you are more likely to get them too) or a combination of the two.

Here we will look at the most common foot bunion symptoms as well as the prevalence of the condition.  Then we will go on to look at the best treatment options available.

Common Bunion Symptoms

A bony lump is one of the most common bunion symptoms

Bunion symptoms can vary massively from person to person.  The most common foot bunion symptoms are:

Bony Lump

A bony lump is the most classic of bunions symptoms. Swelling gradually develops on the outer side of the base of the toe which protrudes outwards.  The shape and size varies but tends to get gradually larger over time if the bunion is left untreated.


Often, in the early stages of foot bunions, there is little or no pain at all. However, if the toe continues to shift out of position, pain is likely to start. The pain tends to fairly localised around the base of big toe and ball of the foot.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking are often painful with bunions which is hardly surprising when we think that a majority of our body weight goes through the bunion with each step we take.  The pain from bunion symptoms may come and go or be persistent. 

Toe Position & Foot Shape

As the bony lump increases in size with a bunion, the toe starts to shift inwards towards the other toes in the foot.  It may even cross over or under the next toe.  This is known as the hallux abducto valgus position.  The foot may also gradually widen.

Changes in foot shape and toe position are common bunion symptoms


Redness over the bony lump is another sommon bunion symptoms. This develops when there is repeated friction on the skin when the bony lump rubs against the edge of a shoe.  This may be one of the first bunion symptoms you experience and be more noticeable than a lump in the early stages.

Calluses are one of many bunion symptoms. Note the areas of thickened, hardened skin.

Hard Skin

The area of skin over a bunion may harden, known as a callus. This is the body trying to protect itself by laying down extra layers forming thickened, hardened skin.  Calluses themselves are usually painless. 


Toe stiffness is a common bunion symptom. You may notice that the amount of movement at your big toe becomes progressively restricted. This can be particularly obvious when you are walking.  During the push-off phase of walking we push up through the big toe, pushing it back into about sixty degrees of extension.  This movement often becomes painful and restricted with bunions.  In severe cases, the joint may become so stiff that there is no extension at all.  Arthritis often develops at the joint. 

How Common Are Bunions?

Wearing tight, narrow or pointed shoes, especially high heels pushes the toes inwards increasing the risk of developing painful bunions

Bunion symptoms are almost ten times more likely to affect women than men.  This is most likely down to narrow, tight or high heeled footwear. 

They are increasingly common with aging affecting approximately 23% of adults under the age of sixty five compared to 35% of people over the age of sixty five according to an article in the Journal of Foot and Ankle research.

Bunions are much more common in countries where people wear western footwear affecting approximately 30% of the population in comparison to only 3% in non-western countries.

Bunion Treatment Options

Best ways to treat Bunion Symptoms

There are a number of different treatment options out there to help reduce bunion symptoms.  Changing to wider fitting footwear is one of the simplest yet most effective treatments.  Other things that can help are bunion splints - there is a huge range of various splints and pads that can help.

If your bunion symptoms become more severe and start affecting your daily life, you may need to have surgery.

You can find out loads more about bunions in the following sections:

Bunion Guide: An overview of bunions including common causes
Treatment Options: Best treatments including orthotics and exercises
Surgery: Different surgical options available
Recovering from Surgery: Recovery guide for after surgery
Top Products: Things that can help with prevention or recovery from surgery

Bunions are just one cause of toe pain.  If these bunions symptoms aren't sounding quite like your pain, visit the toe pain diagnosis section for help working out what is causing your pain.

Page Last Updated: 19/10/20
Next Review Due: 19/10/22