Bunions, which affect more women than men, can be the result of genetics or from years of wearing tight, poorly fitting shoes. Turf toe is more often caused by an injury.

A bunion is a common foot problem. It appears as a bump that forms at the base of the big toe. The big toe becomes misaligned and starts leaning toward the second toe. Bunions range from mild to severe. Someone with mild bunions may not experience pain and can often deal with the problem by wearing shoes with a wide toe box. When the bunion becomes painful or irritated, rest and ice can help.

A severe bunion may cause significant pain when walking and can make it difficult to buy shoes. It can cause the big toe to move underneath the toe next to it. Sometimes surgery is needed to relieve the pain and restore function.

Turf toe results from an injury to the big toe when it is forced to extend beyond its normal limit. This causes an injury to the ligaments in the toe joint - a sprain. It can happen while playing a sport that causes the toe to be jammed into the ground or bent backward. It can also happen in every day life if someone trips or stubs his toe. Pain is felt at the base of the big toe, and it may be swollen and difficult to move. The condition is often associated with playing sports on artificial turf, hence the name, "turf toe." But it can happen to anyone.

The immediate treatment for a sudden turf toe injury is to rest the joint, apply ice and take anti-inflammatory medication. Elevating the foot is also helpful.

Both turf toe and bunions can have a significant impact on a golfer's swing if they become painful. Golfers may develop blisters near the site of a bunion; or they may avoid weight shifting during the swing. When an individual has foot or toe pain, he or she may put more stress on another area of the body to avoid putting pressure on the injured area. This can lead to additional pain in the knees, hips or spine. Golfers with foot pain may need to choose alternate footwear.

If a bunion or turf toe affects the back foot, the golfer may not be able to develop power for contact with the ball, resulting in reduced distance in drives.

Tips for Managing the Symptoms

  • If pain develops, rest the foot until it feels better. Ice can provide relief.

  • An over-the-counter orthotic or metatarsal pad can be used to support the foot. Consider being evaluated by a foot specialist to get the best fit.

  • A toe spacer may help decrease pain with a bunion, as it separates the big toe from the second toe.

  • Properly fitted footwear or wider footwear may decrease pressure on the injured toe or bunion.