A bunion is a “bump” on the joint at the base of the big toe—the

metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—that forms when the bone or tissue at

the big toe joint moves out of place. The toe is forced to bend toward the

others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. Because this

joint carries a lot of the body's weight while walking, bunions can cause

extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and

sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. A bunion—

from the Latin "bunio," meaning enlargement—can also occur on the

outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a "bunionette" or

"tailor's bunion".

Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the

joints and tendons of the foot becomes disrupted. This disruption can lead

to instability in the joint and cause the deformity. Bunions are brought

about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. They

are, therefore, a symptom of faulty foot development and are usually

caused by the way we walk and our inherited foot type or our shoes.

Although bunions tend to run in families, it is the foot type that is passed

down—not the bunion. Parents who suffer from poor foot mechanics can

pass their problematic foot type on to their children, who in turn are prone

to developing bunions. The abnormal functioning caused by this faulty foot

development can lead to pressure being exerted on and within the foot,

often resulting in bone and joint deformities such as bunions and


Other causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or

congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are

also prone to developing these problems, as are arthritic patients and

those with inflammatory joint disease. Occupations that place undue

stress on the feet are also a factor; ballet dancers, for instance, often

develop the condition.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be squeezed

together is also a common factor, one that explains the high prevalence of

the disorder among women.

The symptoms of a bunion include the following:

    Development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base

of the big toe

    Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint

    Corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the first and second toes

    Restricted or painful motion of the big toe