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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

A bunion is a firm, painful bump that forms over a bony bulge at the base of the big toe. In most cases, the big toe joint also is enlarged and has degenerative arthritis. The toe also may be pushed toward the second toe (hallux valgus).

Bunions tend to be inherited, but they also are common in the following groups:

  • Women who wear high heels

  • People who wear shoes that are too narrow or too pointed

  • People with flatfeet

All of these situations force the big toe to drift toward the little toes, and this can cause bunions to form.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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