The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Bunion Surgery: When Is It Time?

Posted by on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012


Maybe you saw it. Maybe you felt it. Maybe someone else pointed it out to you. However it happened, one day you became aware that your foot looked strange. You had a bump on the side of your foot below your big toe. Your big toe might even have looked like it was pointing in toward your second toe. Then it started to hurt.

Some might recognize that they now had a bunion, while others might need to go to a podiatrist to find out what’s going on with their feet. After the diagnosis, then what? We’ve talked before about bunion basics, but today let’s think about the decision to have bunion surgery.

That’s right, I said surgery. Bunions don’t heal on their own, so you can either manage the pain or have them fixed surgically. Of course, most people want to avoid surgery as much as they can, either because of fear of hospitals and anesthesia or because they dread a long painful recovery. But like I said, the bunion fairy isn’t going to come overnight and whisk away your bunion with her magic bunion wand, so here are some points to consider as you ponder bunion surgery.

  • Choose a podiatrist you trust. The best person to discuss bunion surgery with is a podiatrist. A good podiatrist will take your feelings about surgery into account while also discussing the pros and cons of surgery or putting it off. A podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) will be happy to talk to you about options for treating bunions.
  • How is the bunion affecting the rest of your foot? Bunions do affect the rest of your feet, especially your second and third toes which can be forced up into hammertoes. With those come painful corns and calluses. If your bunion hasn’t led to these issues, then that’s great. Your podiatrist may recommend orthotics or a change in shoes to help stop these from developing. If, however, you do have these problems already or really want to make sure you don’t get them, then you probably should seriously consider surgery.
  • How painful is your bunion? Bunions can become red, inflamed, and raw, leading to pain that’s so sever it wakes you up duirng the night. If you find that your bunion hurts so much that it’s keeping you from normal activities (for example you avoid walking whenever possible) and regular over the counter painkillers (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) no longer work, then it’s really time for surgery. You shouldn’t let pain from a bunion change your life for the worse.
  • How about if your bunion ISN’T that painful? This is a really tricky area. Many people will say if your bunion doesn’t hurt that much or at all, then you shouldn’t have your bunion surgically repaired. However, there is the ounce of prevention school of thought: sure, my bunion isn’t a huge problem now but it’s very likely going to be so maybe I should just get it fixed now. Moreover, the simpler my bunion is now (smaller, no hammertoes), the simpler the surgery and therefore my recovery will be; conversely, leaving bunions untreated until you can’t stand them may mean that you’ll need multiple procedures. This is certainly a very logical way to approach the issue and perhaps the smarter course of action, but the decision to have surgery that’s not a dire necessity is a pretty big one. Again, the best thing to do is discuss it with a trusted podiatrist.
  • How ready are you for surgery? Many people put off bunion surgery because it’s inconvenient; all that time off their feet while their foot heals can be a real problem. Then they keep putting it off…and putting it off…and putting it off until their feet are a real mess and surgery becomes a big deal. If you think you’re going to need bunion surgery, start planning ahead. If your family usually takes vacations in the summer, get your surgery done in the winter. If you usually walk to work, make a plan with someone to drive you for a few weeks. If you know you have a major conference to attend and you don’t want to be on crutches, schedule your surgery at least two months before the date.It’s also important to realize that the better shape you’re in, the easier your recovery will be (or then again, maybe bunion surgery will help you drop a few pounds like it did for Nigella Lawson). Make sure you’re healthy and strong. Eat right and work on your upper body strength so you can manage your crutches without help. No one likes having to use crutches, but it’s more fun if you’re a crutch badass.

Hopefully these questions will help you with your bunion surgery decision. If you have any questions about bunions or other foot issues, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.