Your Bunion Surgery Options (And Yes, There's More Than One!)

Your podiatrist may have discussed a bunionectomy treatment with you. "Bunionectomy" is a bit of a misnomer, since the bunion is actually your misaligned toe joint, and you do not want to remove the toe or its joint! However, there are several surgical options that correct a bunion problem. They are as follows.

Shave It

Some podiatrists will "shave" a bunion. To do this, they freeze up your foot, make an incision along the length of the bunion, and use special bone-shaving tools to minimize the bunion. It works best with small- or medium-sized bunions. It is also one of the more painful surgeries, and it will require you to wear an orthopedic "bunion boot" for a few weeks. 

Pin It

Because it is deformity of a toe joint, a bunion can be corrected by pinning it. In this surgery, the podiatrist will open up the flesh around the bunion, forcibly hold the toe joint straight, and then use a titanium pin to hold the toe joint straight. A second pin may be added to the underside of the foot opposite of the first pin for added strength. As the site heals, the bones will accept and grow over the pin(s), which will force the toe to remain straight indefinitely. The only problem you will have going forward is finding and wearing shoes with a wider toe box because all of your other shoes will not conform to the straightened toe, and the toe can no longer bend inward to conform to narrow-fit shoes.

Brace It

If the bunion is especially bad, your podiatrist may decide to brace it. This involves breaking some metatarsal (foot) joints that lead up to the big toe and then inserting metal plates and pins to straighten and correct the breaks and the bunion joint itself. The bones will heal just as they do with any broken bone where they are braced by metal plates. The metal plates will remain in your foot the rest of your life, so if you are a dancer, you will have to find a different career, as the foot bones will no longer be as flexible as they once were.

Going Forward

Corrective shoes for bunions, even after you have had bunion surgery, are par for the course. Thankfully, corrective shoes have come a long way from those drab gray or olive-colored shoes your grandmother used to wear. You might even find it fun to "shop" for bunion support shoes in the podiatrist's office.