Do Bunions Require Surgery?

When a bump starts growing on the outside of your big toe, there’s a strong likelihood you have bunions. Bunions can range from small to enormous and can cause no problems or be extremely painful.

One common question about bunions is whether they require surgery to correct. The answer depends on a number of factors.

Experienced podiatrists Ryan Golub, DPM, and Zachary Flynn, DPM, AACFAS, from Arizona Foot Health in Phoenix, Arizona, explain when you should consider surgery for your bunions.

Conservative treatment vs. bunion surgery

Our podiatrists can treat bunions with conservative measures or through surgery. Conservative treatment is non-invasive and can involve a combination of medications, shoe inserts, and lifestyle changes. 

Over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen can reduce the swelling and pain caused by bunions. In addition, our team can make custom orthotics that help improve your gait and alignment and reduce bunion pain.

Changing the shoes you wear can also reduce swelling, pain, and further growth of bunions. Our team recommends wearing flat, supportive shoes with a wide-toe box that comfortably fits your bunions.

If you get surgery to remove your bunions, our podiatrists usually perform an in-office outpatient surgery called a bunionectomy. This surgery involves shaving off your bunions and repositioning any toes taken out of alignment by the bunion.

Reasons to choose conservative treatment

Our team often suggests starting with conservative treatment before moving to surgically removing bunions. Conservative treatment might be right for your bunions if:

You have small bunions

Smaller bunions are less likely to interfere with walking, cause pain, or interfere with wearing shoes. Conservative treatments can eliminate most issues and slow or stop bunion growth if your bunions are still on the smaller side. 

Your bunions aren’t causing serious problems

If your bunions aren’t causing serious pain, interfering with your gait or foot alignment, or otherwise affecting your lifestyle, there’s usually no reason to surgically remove them. Conservative treatment can alleviate minor symptoms without the risks of surgery.

Reasons to choose bunion surgery

Sometimes, surgery that completely eliminates your bunions is the best solution. Our team might recommend surgery if:

Conservative treatment hasn’t worked

If you’ve tried medication, orthotics, and changing your footwear and are still having serious pain or otherwise are causing problems in your lifestyle, surgery can solve the problem for good.

Your foot is completely out of alignment

When your bunions get large enough, they can push your big and second toes out of alignment, even pushing them into each other or forcing your second toe to cross over your third toe. Surgery is the only way to correct severe alignment issues.

You can’t find shoes that fit

If your bunions are so large or have pushed your foot so far out of alignment that it’s impossible to find shoes, surgery is usually the best option.

Choosing the best bunion treatment

Our podiatrists recommend treatment for your bunions based on an examination and tests. They create a custom treatment plan based on your bunions, any underlying conditions, lifestyle, and overall health.

Bunions are never a welcome addition to your feet, but the best treatment plan can set things right. Contact us to schedule an evaluation of your bunion.

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