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A bunion actually refers to the bony prominence on the side of the big toe. This can also form a large sac of fluid, known as a bursa, which can then become inflamed and sore.

The term "hallux valgus" or "hallux abducto-valgus" are the most commonly used terms associated with a bunion, where "hallux" refers to the big toe (1st met), “valgus” refers to the abnormal angulation of the great toe commonly associated with a bunion, and "abductus" refers to the abnormal drifting or inward leaning of the big toe towards the second toe, which is also commonly associated with bunions. It is important to state that "hallux abducto" refers to the motion the great toe moves away from the body's midline. In more severe cases, the hallux continuing in the abductus fashion eventually either overlaps or underlaps subsequent lesser (small) toes especially the second toe.

The symptoms of bunions include irritated skin around the bunion, pain when walking, joint redness and pain, and possible shift of the big toe toward the other toes. Having bunions can also make it more difficult to find shoes that fit properly. When a bunion deformity becomes severe enough, the foot can hurt in different places even without the constriction of shoes because it then becomes a mechanical function problem of the forefoot.

Some people have large bunions that are not painful others might have small bunions that are very painful; most women have problems when trying to find shoes. Hallux Abducto-valgus is one of the major footwear fitting issues experienced by women (more women than men present with this problem). Women with shoe fitting problems due to forefoot pathology often seek medical intervention. If a surgical correction option is not available, extra wide footwear is often prescribed.