If you have severe bunions, the pain and swelling in your toes or feet can make it hard to walk. Duke’s foot and ankle specialists treat all types of bunions and the complications they may cause. Duke is also one of the few hospitals in the region offering minimally invasive bunion surgery. It gets you on your feet and back to your normal activities as quickly as possible.

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About Bunions

Bunions are bony bumps that grow on the joint at the base of your big toe. This protruding bone can change the shape of your foot and cause your big toe to tilt toward the other toes. Over time, your toes may begin to overlap and rub together, causing corns, calluses, bursitis, or hammertoe. You may have trouble bending your foot or fitting it into shoes.

For some people, wearing flat shoes with wide toe boxes instead of high heels is enough to prevent bunions or keep them from growing. But people with a family history of bunions, or certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, may develop bunions no matter what type of shoes they wear.

Bunion surgery may be recommended if you experience severe foot pain when walking, or your foot swelling cannot be relieved with medication.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Physical Exam

Doctors can usually diagnose bunions by doing a simple physical exam. Your doctor will look at the angle of your big toe joint, check toe range of motion, and confirm whether the bunion affects your ability to walk.

X-Ray, CT, or MRI

These imaging tests help your doctor see how severe your bunion is and whether it has caused other problems, such as stress fractures or nerve damage.

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Nonsurgical Treatment

For bunions that aren’t large or painful, your doctor likely will recommend conservative treatments such as choosing roomier shoes, using padded shoe inserts, wearing special socks, splinting or taping your big toe at night, and/or taking medications to relieve pain and inflammation. If these don’t help or your bunion becomes larger and more painful, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Traditional Bunion Surgery

During traditional bunion surgery, your surgeon removes the bony bump and, if necessary, realigns the bones, tendons, ligaments, or nerves. Sometimes the affected bone must be held in place with permanent screws or pins. The incisions in these types of “open” surgeries can be 2½ to 6 inches long, and sometimes multiples incisions are needed. Depending on the type of open procedure, you may be placed in a cast for four to six weeks, or in a walking shoe for six to eight weeks.

Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery

This new technique involves several small incisions -- about one-tenth of an inch long -- through which your surgeon shaves away the bunion and realigns the bone. The smaller incisions may help reduce pain, swelling, and recovery time while also lowering the risk of infection.


This novel procedure addresses the root cause of many bunions -- an unstable toe joint. Instead of “shaving off” the bunion, your surgeon corrects the rotation of your big toe at the joint and restores its natural alignment. Lapiplasty eliminates the bump associated with your bunion, alleviates your pain, and allows for more comfortable shoe wear. To maintain this correction and prevent the problem from coming back, your surgeon will fuse a bone in your foot using titanium plates. This allows you to move and put weight on your foot earlier than with traditional surgery. In some cases, patients are walking in a boot by two weeks and wearing regular shoes six to eight weeks after surgery.  

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps strengthen your foot and improve your mobility after any type of bunion surgery.

Best Orthopaedic Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Why Choose Duke

Walk-In Orthopaedic Urgent Care
Our convenient orthopaedic urgent care clinic is open seven days a week. Get fast service with no long waits and no unnecessary exposure to illness. No appointment needed.

Extensive Experience
Duke foot-and-ankle specialists perform hundreds of surgical procedures each year. They are board certified and fellowship trained in foot and ankle surgery.

Research-Driven Care 
Our doctors track the outcomes of every bunion surgery. This helps them compare and better understand the effectiveness of surgical techniques used to treat moderate or severe bunions.

This page was medically reviewed on 04/06/2021