Naturally Shrinking Bunions: What’s Possible?

You can ease symptoms of pain and inflammation

Medically reviewed by Adam H. Kaplan, DPM

Managing bunions without surgery is oftentimes possible with certain treatments and devices. Ways to shrink or prevent bunions from worsening include wearing supportive footwear, taking pain medications or using pain-relieving topical creams, doing bunion stretches and exercises, and using ice packs, warm soaks, and gentle massage.

This article will describe options for relieving bunion pain naturally and discuss which can help shrink, flatten, or reverse bunions. It will explain when bunion surgery may be necessary to correct a bunion and what to expect with bunion surgery outcome and recovery.

Learn More: An Overview of Bunions

How to Relieve Bunion Pain Naturally

Bunion (hallux valgus) pain can make it difficult to walk or participate in everyday activities. Bunions are common in people as they become older. The following are all ways of relieving bunion pain without surgery.

Related: Common Foot and Ankle Problems

Footwear That Fits

Shoes to prevent bunions are shoes with a wide toe box and supportive features for your heels, arch, and soles. Choose shoes with enough room for your toes, making sure that the big toe joint isn’t rubbing against the inside of the shoe.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest prescription orthotics. These are shoe inserts that help take pressure off the affected joint and prevent minor bunions from worsening, but may not help larger ones.

Related: Why High Heels Are Bad for You

Bunion Pads

Sometimes finding the right shoe fit for bunion pain is more difficult or takes a little more time than expected. In the interim, you can reduce the pressure on your big toe joint by using bunion pads.

Bunion pads are sometimes made from moleskin or are gel-filled. Bunion pads should allow enough room to comfortably accommodate your toes when wearing shoes. These pads can be found in drugstores and shoe stores and are designed to provide cushioning on the affected joint. They reduce pressure, which reduces pain.

Bunion Stretches

There are some exercises and stretches you can do to help reduce pain. Bunion stretches include doing big toe circles, spreading your toes, and doing heel raises. Experts say to perform stretches daily to reduce bunion pressure, increase foot muscle strength, and range of motion or mobility.

Related: Common Causes of Foot Pain

Pain Relievers

Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen), can help relieve pain and swelling. You can also consult with your healthcare provider about prescription-strength options to reduce pain.

Related: Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Pain Medication Overview

Does Anything Shrink, Flatten, or Correct Bunions Naturally?

Orthotics and similar devices can correct bunions naturally. For example, toe splints and braces you wear overnight are aimed at reducing morning stiffness in the affected joint. However, the muscle tension may cause a bunion to over time.

Is There a Cure For Bunions?

While these bunion support devices may help bunions from getting worse, they have not been shown to actually shrink, flatten, or correct bunions. Talk to your podiatrist (foot doctor) or other healthcare provider treating you for bunions about all your options. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons cautions that “inadequate ‘quick fixes’ can do more harm than good.”

Related: Foot Problems People Mistake for a Bunion

Surgery: The Only Way to (Maybe) Shrink Bunions

Some people will need surgery to shrink bunions. Bunion surgery realigns by repositioning the toe bone and surrounding tendons, ligaments, and nerves.

Success Rate

Bunion surgery has a high success rate. There are some risk factors that influence surgery success, including bunion severity, a patient’s total body mass index (BMI), and whether or not the patient previously had bunion surgery.

The following are signs that someone may be a good candidate for surgery, although it will come down to a case-by-case basis:

No Quick Fix

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that after bunion surgery, most people experience less foot pain and are better able to participate in everyday activities, but it’s also important to be realistic about what’s possible. Remember that even with surgery, there is no quick fix to get rid of a bunion. Bunion surgery recovery takes up to six months, with follow-up visits sometimes necessary for up to a year.

Related: The Different Causes of Bunions

Self-Care to Tackle Bunions Without Surgery

Bunion self-care may not shrink or flatten the bunion, but it will help with pain and prevent the bunion from getting larger, more painful, and causing more problems with walking. Some at-home natural methods of bunion self-care include:

  • Using ice pack cold therapy to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Using warm water soak to help ease symptoms of sore feet

  • Performing gentle foot massage

  • Doing bunion stretches and apply any topical ointments or creams as directed by your healthcare provider

These types of self-care activities can also be helpful for easing symptoms of bunionettes. Bunionettes are a type of bunion that occur on the little toe, specifically on the fifth metatarsal bone, where it meets the bone of the little toe.

Read Next: What Is a Bunionette?


Bunions can be managed at home and with the help of a medical professional such as a podiatrist to reduce symptoms. Options include changing footwear if necessary, using pain relievers, doing bunion stretches, and even using nighttime splints. However, bunions don’t shrink, dissolve, or reverse from these treatments.

Surgery can realign your toe joint to its correct position and reduce pain. Bunion surgery has a high success rate, and recovery time takes up to six months. Talk to your podiatrist about bunion treatment options that make sense for you.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.