Bunions and Great Toe Joint Pain

Bunion deformities and painful great toe joints are very common and can be quite painful. The term “bunion” is a generic name given to any enlargement of the big toe joint. Bunions become painful due to pressure from shoes, from misalignment of the joint, or from damage from within the great toe joint itself. A bunion can be caused from abnormal position or drift of the bones of the foot, can be due to abnormal function/biomechanics of the foot, or can be a result of an arthritic or metabolic processes. Many bunions are hereditary and others form due to faulty foot function and/or shoe choices and influences. Not all “bunions” are treated the same way.

Initially, “bunions” are treated conservatively with larger/wider shoes, splinting/padding, anti-inflammatories, or orthotics, (custom made arch supports which correct for poor biomechanics of the feet). Eventually, most painful and large bunions require more definitive treatment, often times requiring day surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent surgical treatment of bunions, especially in the cases of very flexible feet, arthritis, and metabolic causes. The longer a “bunion” is present, the more the cartilage and joint is damaged, often times making surgery the only option. Also, bunions and bad great toe joint function often cause pain and problems in other areas of the foot, (such as pain in the balls of the feet or hammertoes).

Bunion surgery is usually relatively easy, predictable, and most often without general anesthesia in a day surgery center or outpatient hospital. Most patients are allowed to walk on their surgical foot the same day of surgery. Early treatment of great toe deformities is the single most important way to prevent end-stage great toe joint arthritis. Most end-stage great toe joint arthritis can lead to significant disability, and often necessitates great toe joint replacement surgery or great toe joint fusion surgery.

If you have a painful or enlarged great toe joint, don’t hesitate, get your feet evaluated today!

Houston Foot and Ankle

Jason C. Miller, DPM, FACFAS, FASPS

Daren M. Guertin, DPM, FACFAS

Jacob Hord, DPM, FACFAS

Laura Woodcox, DPM

Elizabeth Fernandez-Arias, DPM

Laura Richards, DPM


(281) 348-2166

Offices in Kingwood, Spring, Atascocita, Mont Belvieu, and Houston