5 things you probably didn’t know about bunions


  1. The term “bunion” is derived from the Latin word for turnip. The medical term for bunions is Hallux (big toe) Valgus (pointing away from the midline).
  1. Tight shoes do NOT cause bunions. Rather, you can usually blame your parents. More than 80% of patient with bunions have a first-degree family member with a bunion. However, if you have a bunion and wear constrictive shoes it will cause pain –so comfortable shoes are still very important!
  1. There’s very little correlation between the size of a bunion and how painful it is. It is natural to think that a big bunion = lots of pain, and a small bunion = very little pain.  However, that is not the case. Small bunions can be very painful, and many large bunions cause no symptoms at all.
  1.  The vast majority of bunions can be treated effectively without surgery. Only a small percentage of patients with bunions will need surgery. Most bunions can be managed effectively without surgery. Simple non-surgical treatments like wearing a shoe with more width and a softer upper can be very effective at decreasing or eliminating bunion symptoms.
  1. Bunion surgery is not a cosmetic procedure. Bunions that are not painful should not be operated on. The recovery from surgery is considerable and “there is no operation that has ever been invented that can’t conceivably have a complication.” These are two of the reasons why performing cosmetic bunion surgery (surgery in the absence of significant symptoms of discomfort) has been identified by the “Choose Wisely” campaign as an unnecessary procedure.

For more information on bunions check out the FootEducation bunion page!

Stephen Pinney MD