Bunion Foot Pain

Painful bump on the side of your big toe? Why you shouldn’t ignore a bunion.

That painful bony bump on the side of your big toe? It’s probably a bunion. Nearly a quarter of people age 18-65 have bunions, making them one of the most common foot issues among adults. They also run in families and are more prevalent among women (thanks, cute heels), and among those over 65. In fact, more than a third of people over age 65 (36 percent) have bunions.

Whether it runs in your family or you’ve been choosing fashion over function, there are five key things you should know to deal with your bunion and move past the pain.

What causes bunion pain?

We know what predisposes people to getting bunions, but what’s happening with our feet to cause so much pain?  It starts when your big toe begins to turn in toward your second toe. As that happens, the joint at base of the big toe bone pushes out to the side, where it meets your footbone (called the first metatarsal) and that pressure causes pain. This area carries a great deal of weight when you are standing or walking, and that pressure causes pain. The area may become red and callused over time. The pain can become so severe that it’s difficult to wear shoes.

Bunions range from mild to severe and should be treated differently

Depending on how prominent and painful your bunion is, your orthopedic or podiatric surgeonmay recommend a variety of treatments that can slow the progression of your bunion, or minimize the pain, but surgery is the only way to truly correct the situation. Beware of ‘treatments’ claiming non-surgical bunion removal.

Popular methods to manage bunion pain and slow progression are wearing supportive well-fitting shoes that align your foot properly for walking, using orthotics or a gel pad to cushion the area when wearing shoes and wearing a splint at night.

There are a variety of available orthotics (or orthoses) including over-the-counter or off-the-shelf commercial products and, as necessary, custom-molded orthotics that are generally prescribed medical devices.

Bunion surgery may be needed

Moderate or severe bunions and can involve cutting the joint at the big toe and then aligning it properly. In more severe cases, the entire joint may be replaced with metal plates and screws.  See a video animation of how surgery corrects the bunion. 

Don’t ignore bunion pain

If you let a bunion become too severe, you are likely to run out of non-surgical options for pain relief and may even need to consider a more involved surgical procedure such as replacing a joint in your toe or fusing bones together. This equates to a longer and more complex recovery time, not to mention prolonging your pain unnecessarily by not seeing a doctor and making a treatment plan. If you’ve had pain for a year or more, it’s definitely time to see a doctor to review your options.

Recovery takes time
The most common kind of bunion surgery is on an out-patient basis and takes around two months to recover. Your doctor will work with you to create a recovery plan which may include a special boot, rest, stretching and/or physical therapy. Active adults who want to return to load bearing exercise like running and jumping may need longer to get back in the action – but that’s time well spent if they can return to their activities bunion and pain free.

Learn more about your bunion treatment options with one of our podiatric surgeons:

Best Foot and Ankle Surgeons

Keith Jacobson, DPM

Dr. Keith Jacobson


Alan Ng, DPM

Dr. Alan Ng


Scott Resig, MD

Dr. Scott Resig


Snowboarder vs skier ankle injuries

Snowboarders vs Ski Ankle Injuries

Colorado: If it ever snows enough to ski or board again, avoid these common ankle injuries and stay on the mountain longer!

In Colorado, we’re having one of the slowest starts to the ski and snowboard season in a while, with even less snow than last year at this time. But late December brought plenty of snow to the Rockies last year, so get ready skiers and riders – and keep these four tips in mind to avoid an ankle injury and stay in mountain-ready condition!

  1. Snowboarders beware: your risk of ankle injuries is higher than skiers.

It’s so common, it’s known as “snowboarder’s ankle” – which is actually a serious injury in the form of a fracture. This often occurs because snowboard boots are softer and less able to protect a rider from hard landings or awkward angles. The fracture is caused when the foot is pushed up and in-ward with sudden impact, and while it’s pretty easy to do – fractures account for as much as 50 percent of all rider ankle injuries – it’s harder to diagnose. It’s often hard to see or missed on x-rays and may require other tests to diagnose. If you have pain and swelling on the outside of your foot and ankle, see a foot and ankle specialist to confirm or rule out a fracture.  Delaying treatment or a misdiagnosis can result in more serious long-term ankle pain and problems.

  1. Even though the slopes aren’t totally ready, be sure you are.

It’s never too late to include some pre-skiing or riding exercises in your normal routine. Building strength, stability and flexibility before you hit the slopes lessens your chance of ankle injuries and other injuries too! Many gyms offer ski-conditioning programs and there are simple exercises you can do on your own to strengthen your core, legs and upper body. Riders, can practice with a wobble board, for example, to improve balance and ankle stability. Skiers and riders can benefit from a medicine ball squat which builds muscles and endurance in the lower back, glutes, and quads.

  1. Skiers aren’t exempt from ankle injury – but it’s more likely to be a sprain

While firm ski boots are better at protecting the ankle than snowboard boots, sprains do still happen. When a skier comes down hard on the outside of their foot (which can happen while making a hard turn or stop, or by catching an edge), it forces the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to over-stretch or even tear. Most sprains heal on their own, but not before you manage through swelling, some pain and a sometimes pretty unsightly bruise. Severe sprains can require treatment including surgery. To minimize your risk of ankle sprain, ensure your boots fit snugly and your equipment is correctly sized and adjusted.

  1. Be extra cautious in bad (seriously, really bad) conditions

The Denver Post reports – and you may have experienced – very limited open terrain so far, and what is open is dotted with patches of grass, rock and ice. Uneven and slick spots can be extremely challenging, even for advanced skiers or riders – anyone can catch an edge or lose their balance in spotty terrain. And let’s not forget the crowds. An ankle injury can easily occur when large crowds are forced into increasingly narrowing runs as skiers and riders come to abrupt stops. Think of these early days as a warm up to many months of enjoyable mountain time and take it easy on your speeds and aggressive moves this early in the season.

Foot & Ankle Specialists

Dr. Keith Jacobson

Dr. Keith Jacobson

• Reconstructive Foot & Ankle Surgery
• Foot & Ankle Trauma
• Arthroscopy of the Foot & Ankle
• Arthroscopic Cartilage Repair
• Total Ankle Replacement


Dr. Alan Ng

Dr. Alan Ng

• Reconstructive Foot & Ankle Surgery
• Foot & Ankle Trauma
• Arthroscopy of the Foot & Ankle
• Arthroscopic Cartilage Repair
• Total Ankle Replacement


Dr. Scott Resig

Dr. Scott Resig

• Total Knee Replacement
• Robotic Partial Knee Replacement
• Total Ankle Replacement
• Foot & Ankle Reconstruction and Trauma