Best 5 Exercises for a Bunion

Hallux valgus, or simply and commonly known as a bunion, is a deformity of the big toe. It occurs when the big toe moves inwards to the second toe, occasionally overlying it. It causes the metatarsal head to become more prominent, this gives a bump look and shape to the condition. The bump on the side of the big toe is often red and sore, where it rubs against shoes. It is a common foot condition known to cause discomfort and pain. It can affect your walking, balance and ability to wear certain types of shoes.

Symptoms of a bunion include:

  • A visible bump at the side of the big toe.
  • Pain and tenderness in the affected area.
  • Swelling and redness around the joint.
  • Corns or calluses on the affected toe.
  • Stiffness and limited movement in the affected toe.


It is a condition mostly associated with women than men, some reported causes are to do with footwear. Links have been made with wearing narrow high heeled shoes and ageing. There seems no doubt from us at Surrey Physio that high-heel shoes are the key issue that causes bunions. Some people are predisposed due to genetics, further links have been made to people that have weak connective tissue, shorter Achilles tendon and joint diseases such as rheumatoid/osteoarthritis. It may also be linked to weakness of muscles in the foot.

If you suspect that you have a bunion, it is important to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. An examination of the big toe is important to be had, a doctor or podiatrist will check if the base of the big toe is bulging. A comparison of the big toe in relation to the other toes will be made to determine the severity. At times an x-ray is required to get a clearer diagnosis.


To reduces the prevalence of bunions appearing follow these tips below:

  • Wear comfortable footwear.
  • Make sure there is enough room for your toes.
  • Walk bare foot when you have a chance – walking barefoot can help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot.


Bunions are progressive meaning they usually get worse over time. Treatment is often reserved for severe cases where it is affecting your quality of life. Physiotherapy is a good place to start. Physiotherapy can help strengthen the muscles around the foot, reinforce your gait pattern and offer education and advice. At Surrey Physio we can develop a personalised program to help you manage your symptoms. Below are some treatment options listed:

  • Splints/toe spacers – wearing toe spacers encourages the big to assume it normal alignment. It can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of deformity.
  • Suitable footwear – wearing flat shoes and giving the toes enough room is also a form of treatment. You can use padding around the toe if it is inflamed and painful. Additionally, you can walk bare foot when possible. This can help strengthen the muscles around the foot.
  • Physiotherapy – consulting a physiotherapist at Surrey Physio is often the quickest way of seeing a health care professional. Surrey Physio can offer a personalised program to meet your goals and needs. One of the key things is to improve mobility if the big toe is stiff.
  • Medication - if the pain is causing discomfort and distress, over the counter pain killers like Ibuprofen, paracetamol or topical nonsteroidal ointments are recommended. But these should only be used short term, and look for natural anti-inflammatories, rubs and supplements like turmeric or Boswellia if you can manage your symptoms naturally.
  • Surgery – unfortunately in many cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the bunion. Your physio can discuss the different surgical options with you and help you decide if surgery is right for you. There are pro’s and con’s with surgery, and we do sometimes see surgeries go wrong. Seek advice from us if needed.

It is important to remember that bunions are a progressive condition, meaning they will worsen over time if left untreated. However, with the right treatment, people with bunions can manage their symptoms and prevent further issues.

Try our top 5 exercises for bunions:

Toe extension exercise

Bend your toe(s) upwards. This will help improve mobility to your toes. Bunions are often associated with stiffness in the big toe and improving mobility seems to help a lot. Hold the stretches for 30 seconds, and repeat three times.

Toe abduction exercise

Place your foot flat on the floor. Try to spread all your toes outwards. It is a fairly difficult exercise, and the outer toes may not move much at all. It may take some practice, so keep persisting. This exercise is useful for improving mobility of your toes and reducing the onset of bunions. Repeat ten times, twice per day.

Bunion treatment exercise

Move your big toe away from your other toes using your finger and thumb. This is a useful mobility exercise for the big toe, especially for those at risk of bunions. Repeat the movement ten times, or hold a stretch to the big toe.

How to use a Bunion Splint

Place a bunion splint on the side of your big toe. The splint should help to keep your big toe straight. Use the strap to secure the splint. Some people prefer to wear the bunion splint through the night. Regular use can help to straighten your big toe. We recommend at least eight weeks of wearing it each night.

Treat your own stiff big toe

Using your hand, bend your big toe upwards. This will help improve mobility to your big toe. You can also hold the stretch if you wish. Mobility in the big toe is very important for foot function, and doing this exercise will help improve mobility and gait. Repeat this exercise for ten reps, three times per day.

Bunions are a common foot condition that can cause pain and discomfort. Symptoms include a visible bump at the base of the big toe, pain and tenderness, and stiffness in the affected area. Treatment options include physiotherapy, footwear modifications, medications, and surgery. Surrey Physio can work with you to create a personalised treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. We regularly see people with bunions and while we cannot correct the position, we are happy to support you to manage your condition.

(Therapists, osteopaths, sports therapists, chiropractors reading this page… if you love the exercises here, then please check out the amazing exercise prescription tool You can sign up for a free 14-day trial, and it’s affordable to buy, with pricing starting from £11.23 per month.

If you would like more info on bunions, Rehab My Patient has written a pretty good article here:

If you are a patient, in pain, or elite performance, please call us to discuss your case further. Surrey Physio have an amazing team of therapists to help you recover from pain, but also to achieve top performance. Call us on 0208 685 6930 or click the link at the top to book online.)