While surgery is a popular option to correct bunions, a more cautious approach is to try to treat them with a variety of toe therapies, including the use of bunion pads. Bunion pads are sock or shoe inserts designed to ease the pain caused by a bunion rubbing against a shoe. They also cushion calluses and hard skin created by a bunion. Most bunion pads are for one-time use, but some are washable and reusable.
There are a wide variety of bunion pads to choose from. The main types are:
- Foam and felt pads. These are similar to the pads that are used to ease comfort from corns or calluses on the feet. They usually have a doughnut shape which allows the bunion to poke through the hole. The pad itself is made from foam, with a self-adhesives tape that allows it to be stuck to the skin. Felt covers the outside of the pad. Some of these types of pads contain latex, so those with latex allergies should look for ones that are explicitly latex free.
- Gel pads. These are very much like the foam and felt pads but are made of silicone or some other soft-gel material. They often have a loop that fits over the big toe to hold the pad in place over the bunion. Other styles of gel bunion pads allow mineral oil to reach the skin to soften and moisturize the skin around the bunion.
- Sleeve or sling pads. These pads are enclosed in a sleeve or sling made of cotton that fits around the foot. The pad fits directly over the bunion. They're made of foam or felt, or from a gel substance. Sleeve or sling bunion pads are often washable and reusable.
- Bunion shields. A bunion shield is a bit longer than a basic bunion pad but it also fits over the bunion and is positioned along the outside of the foot. It is not so much oval-ring shaped as it is long-oval shaped, protecting a wider area of the side of the foot containing the bunion. These shields are made of foam and felt or gel. Some bunion shields are washable and reusable.
Bunion pads are available at drugstores or anywhere foot-treatment items are sold. A podiatrist can determine what the best treatment for bunions might be, as the severity of a bunion can vary greatly from person to person and even from foot to foot.