Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Bunion surgery

3-minute read

This page will give you information about bunion surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony lump on the side of your foot at the base of your big toe.

The most common cause of bunions is footwear that does not have enough width to fit your toes in their natural position. They are sometimes associated with arthritis of the joint at the base of your big toe.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your big toe should be straighter, so your foot should fit more comfortably in a normal shoe.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Putting padding over the bunion or a spacer between your big toe and second toe can help.

Illustration of a bunion on the left foot.
A bunion on the left foot.

Using wide-fitting shoes from a good-quality shoe shop may be enough. If not, the orthotics (surgical appliances) department at the hospital will be able to give you advice about special shoes.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. The operation may involve removing the bunion, releasing or tightening ligaments, realigning your big toe, stiffening a joint and straightening your smaller toes.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • unsightly scarring
  • blood clots
  • difficulty passing urine

Specific complications

  • damage to nerves
  • problems with bone healing
  • loss of movement in your big toe
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your foot (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • pain in the ball of your foot
  • the deformity coming back

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

Spend most of the time during the first week with your leg raised so that the swelling settles.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

It can take 6 weeks or longer before the swelling has gone down enough for you to wear a normal soft shoe.

Summary

If you have a bunion that is causing pressure and pain, surgery should straighten your big toe and make your foot fit more comfortably into a normal shoe.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Bunions - myDr.com.au

A bunion is an abnormal swollen bony bump that appears on the base of the big toe joint. Treatment options include correct footwear, pads and toe inserts, medicines and surgery.

Read more on myDr website

Feet - problems and treatments - Better Health Channel

Correctly fitted shoes help you avoid foot and leg pain or injury.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Learn about Feet & treating Foot conditions - MSK

Do you have a painful foot condition like arthritis? Find out more about it, how you can manage, where to find support & how MSK can help you

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Children's feet and shoes - Better Health Channel

A child learning to walk receives important sensory information from the soles of their feet, and shoes can make walking more difficult.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Kids' Health - Topics - Calluses and corns

Sometimes fluid comes up under the skin. This is called a blister. (Our topic Blisters will tell you more about these).

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Podiatry

Podiatry is the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of the feet and lower limbs.

Read more on WA Health website

Diabetic neuropathy - Better Health Channel

Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Farmers footwear | National Centre for Farmer Health

As farmers you spend a majority of your life on your feet so its important that we do what we can to look after them. The best way that you can take care of your feet is to find the most comfortable work boot, thats appropriate for your terrain and farm work. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Feet: checklist for foot health - myDr.com.au

Foot problems such as smelly feet, athlete's foot, plantar warts, corns and infected toenails can all be alleviated through good foot care. Use this checklist of quick questions to check the health of your feet. 

Read more on myDr website

Your Feet

Your Feet When you have diabetes you need to take very good care of your feet every day

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo