The 4 Types of Bunions

The types of bunions are cataloged according to their clinical manifestations. Today we'll show you four of the most frequent.
The 4 Types of Bunions

Last update: 11 February, 2023

Bunions are lumps that develop at the outer base of the big toe. They are characterized by their progressive growth, so that people note their appearance over months or years. According to researchers, 1 in 3 adults over 65 have them. Not all manifestations are the same though, as there are several types of bunions.

All types share the same causes: a natural deformation in the structure of the foot, the use of inappropriate shoes, having flat feet, or some inflammatory diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis). Here we show you the most types of bunions that can develop.

Most common types of bunions

There’s no standard division for types of bunions. The condition is grouped according to characteristics that manifest progressively.

1. Bunions with skin irritation

This type is distinguished by skin symptoms due to the pressure caused by the lump. Most patients don’t develop these symptoms, although, in cases of large bunions, there may be signs of irritation, redness, peeling, and even visible wounds.

These manifestations worsen the person’s quality of life, as the friction caused by footwear causes greater injuries. For this reason, many choose to wear open-toe shoes or a size or two larger than they should.

If people aren’t paying attention, these injuries can lead to infection. Of course, this happens in very few cases, but you should still be alert if you are prone to developing irritation. Wearing pads and keeping this part moist can be of great help. Harvard Health Publishing suggests cold compresses to reduce irritation.

Types of bunions.
Bunions develop progressively, so their evolution takes months or years.

2. Large bunion

Bunions can be small or large. The latter cause greater problems, especially when choosing footwear. Patients with this type of bunion have to wear very flexible sneakers and opt for open designs.

As they’re larger, the symptoms are more powerful. For example, pain symptoms can be permanent, so you’ll need medication to control them. The appearance of corns and discomfort when walking are also very frequent. Most surgical interventions are done in patients with this manifestation.

3. Bunion with hallux limitus

Also known as hallux rigidus, it’s the type that limits the flexibility of the big toe joint. The range of motion is very poor and even non-existent. This causes more pain and discomfort when walking or standing for a long time.

Unlike the previous cases, patients with this variant must wear rigid shoes. This prevents pressure from being put on the joint to bend.

Researchers recommend treating its advanced stages with surgery. Due to limited movement, some may develop lumps on other parts of the foot.

4. Tailor’s bunion

Tailor’s bunion patients develop the lump on the little toe. They’re generally smaller and their symptoms tend to be milder. Due to this, specialists suggest a conservative treatment based on a change in footwear, the use of insoles, or fillings.

Contrary to popular belief, this manifestation has the same causes as the other types of bunions. Those who have been diagnosed with this variant should avoid pointy shoes.

Footwear for types of bunion.
The choice of footwear in the case of bunions is of crucial importance.

Differential diagnosis of the types of bunions

Although the symptoms of bunions allow for easy clinical diagnosis, sometimes these can be caused by other conditions. We have already told you that rheumatoid arthritis is one of its triggers. However, symptoms can also develop without being diagnosed with bunions.

This happens most often in the hallux limitus type. Another possible explanation is Freiberg’s disease. This is a condition in which the metatarsal head is flattened. As a consequence, patients develop pain if they spend a lot of time on their feet and wear very tight or rigid shoes.

Another explanation is Morton’s neuroma. It consists of the thickening of the tissues that surround the nerves of the foot. It often develops on the third toe. Its treatment is conservative, with a change in footwear, cold compresses to alleviate inflammation, and medication in acute cases.

Due to all this, we encourage you to go to a specialist to determine the true causes of your symptoms. An assessment of progress will also be made and the best approach to follow will be indicated.

  • Ajis, A., Koti, M., & Maffulli, N. Tailor’s bunion: a review. The Journal of foot and ankle surgery. 2005; 44(3): 236-245.
  • Berger, M. R. Bunions: An overview. Orthopaedic Nursing. 1984; 3(5): 17-24.
  • Beeson, P. The surgical treatment of hallux limitus/rigidus: a critical review of the literature. The Foot. 2004; 14(1): 6-22.

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