Bump on Toe: Causes and Treatments

The foot is a complex region that consists of 33 joints and 26 bones. Each of these structures must work together to make everyday tasks like walking and climbing the stairs possible.

When a painful toe bump develops in this region, the intricacy of the area can make it difficult to determine the cause of your issue. Honing in on the location of the bump and the symptoms associated with it can help you determine how to best address the problem.

This article will outline the various causes of a toe bump and the ways to treat each variety.

A person suffering from a corn on their foot

catinsyrup / Getty Images

Causes of Bumps on the Toe

Many different underlying conditions and activities can lead to the development of a painful toe bump. Fortunately, paying attention to the area of the foot where the bump occurs and any other coinciding symptoms can help clue you in on a potential cause. Some of the most common diagnoses are listed in the sections below.

Bunions (Hallux Valgus)

Bunions—also known as hallux valgus (HAV)—occur when your big toe begins to point to the pinky toe (or lesser toes). This typically arises slowly over time and can eventually lead to a painful prominence on the outer border of the base of the big toe. Other types of bunions, called tailor’s bunion or a bunionette, can also develop on the lateral base of the fifth toe as it deviates medially (towards the midline).

It is not entirely understood why bunions occur; however, certain foot types or anatomical variations may make this condition more likely to present in some people. Along with a painful bump, bunions may also cause redness, burning, or numbness in the area of the prominence.

To help control symptoms:

  • Switch to shoes with a wider toe box
  • Use padding over the bunion
  • Avoid painful activities

That said, surgical correction may be necessary if conservative measures fail to address the pain.

Bone Spurs (Osteophytes)

The ends of the bones in our body are covered in a smooth, slippery surface (called articular cartilage) that helps one bone move easily against another. Sometimes, as a result of an acute injury or chronic wear and tear, this cartilage begins to wear away. When this occurs, the excess friction can cause bone spurs (osteophytes) to form.

Bone spurs can develop in any area of the body. In the foot, they commonly occur at the first digit (hallux limitus) on the top side of the toe bones and can cause a painful bump to develop in this area. Other symptoms include pain or stiffness while walking (especially as you push through the toes) and swelling in the forefoot or toe regions.

To help reduce symptoms:

  • Ice the affected area
  • Take NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) pain relievers
  • Switch to a wider-toe box or rigid-soled shoe

In more advanced cases, however, surgery may be necessary to remove the spur, fuse the toe joint, or insert a replacement joint. A joint destruction procedure (where you remove part of the bone from the joint) may also be performed.

Ganglion Cyst

A ganglion cyst is a pocket of fluid that can develop in the capsule surrounding a foot joint. It can also form on the tendon of numerous foot or toe muscles. Typically seen on the top of the foot or toes, these cysts can be either small or large and may resolve and reappear sporadically. While their specific cause is still debated, it is thought that chronic micro-trauma or an acute injury in the region may be to blame.

Most ganglion cysts are asymptomatic, though they may cause some soreness if they are located on a tendon or joint. Occasionally the cyst may compress a nearby nerve, causing tingling or burning sensations. Typically, the cyst is relatively mobile and squishy feeling to the touch.

In most cases, asymptomatic ganglion cysts are left untreated. If they are bothersome, however, the growth may be drained and injected with a steroid, or you can aspirate the ganglion cyst and remove the fluid from the fluid sac. Infrequently, surgical removal may also be performed though there is a chance of cyst regrowth.


Bursas are fluid-filled sacs that help reduce the friction between bones and tendons. Occasionally, direct trauma to the area or a repetitive activity (like jumping or running) can cause the fluid in these sacs to become inflamed and swollen. This is called bursitis and is a relatively common occurrence in the bottom of the feet near the base of the toes.

When bursitis develops, it can lead to pain, swelling, redness, and the development of a prominent bump in the area.

To help resolve the issue:

  • Modify activity
  • Ice
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication
  • Use cushioning or orthotics

Occasionally, a corticosteroid injection to the bursa may also be needed.

Corns and Calluses

Corns and Calluses develop when repetitive rubbing or friction on the toes leads to the development of a thickened patch of skin. When this occurs, it is called a corn or callus.

Corns and calluses are typically rough or coarse feeling to the touch and may look similar to a common wart. While this dense layer of skin is meant to protect the toes from irritating pressure, it can cause pain in the area if it becomes too thick or prominent. A small amount of callus can be healthy, but it can be painful if it's too thick.

While most corns and calluses are asymptomatic, occasionally ones that cause soreness or irritation may need to be surgically debrided by a podiatrist.


Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis caused when excess uric acid builds up in the body and forms sharp, microscopic crystals within a joint. Occasionally, these crystals can also clump together around the joint in masses (called tophi) that look like small nodules beneath the skin.

While gout can occur in any area, the medial side (closer to midline) is very commonly affected. The condition typically comes on without warning and leads to excruciating pain, swelling, warmth, and sensitivity in the affected region. It can also make it difficult to walk, wear socks, or even place a bedsheet over the foot.

Anti-inflammatory or uric acid-lowering medication (called colchicine) are both common treatments for this condition. Oral steroids may also be prescribed. In some cases, a steroid injection may be necessary to relieve the intense pain.

Gout flare-ups may occur sporadically and can be prevented with medications designed to lower your resting uric acid levels. Your diet can also help prevent gout.

Rheumatoid Nodules

Rheumatoid nodules are one potential side effect of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes the immune system to attack its own cells. When cells in the body’s joints are attacked, it can lead to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. In more severe cases, round lumps called rheumatoid nodules may also develop under the skin.

These nodules can occur near any joint or area where pressure occurs, including the toes. Typically, the lumps are round in shape and doughy feeling. Nodules can be as small as a pencil eraser or as large as a fist and are typically not tender to the touch.

Asymptomatic nodules are typically left alone; however, if they compress a nearby nerve or limit joint movement, a corticosteroid injection or surgical removal may be needed.


A lipoma is a deposit of fatty tissue that forms into a tumor. This type of non-cancerous lump is usually located under the skin and is a soft and rubbery feeling. While most commonly found in areas like the upper back, shoulder, buttocks, or thighs, occasionally lipomas can also grow on the toes. Because these lumps are benign and typically do not cause symptoms, they are usually left alone.

In rare cases, however, the tumor may be surgically removed if it is growing in size or causing pain.

Other Causes

While the conditions discussed above are the most frequent causes of a bump on your toe, other less common diagnoses may also be to blame.

Skin Tags

In some instances, skin tags may appear around the foot or toes. These brown or flesh-colored growths are benign and are commonly small in size and attached to the skin via a narrower stalk. Skin tags are asymptomatic and are usually removed for cosmetic reasons only via cauterization or cryotherapy.


Along the same lines, warts may also grow in the forefoot or toe regions. These growths, which are caused by a virus infecting the skin, typically have a raised, coarse surface that is round in shape. Occasionally, a wart can cause pain particularly if it presses against your shoe or into the ground while you walk. While there are some over-the-counter wart medications, the most successful treatment is surgical removal by a podiatrist.

Cancerous Tumors

Finally, in extremely rare cases, a cancerous tumor can be to blame for your toe bump. In addition to a visual lump, a malignant growth in the toes can also cause pain, difficulty walking, swelling, and a fever. Treatments vary depending on the type of tumor; however, surgical removal, chemotherapy, and radiation are generally utilized.

Home Remedies for Bumps on the Toe

While concerning lumps should always be evaluated by a healthcare provider, there are a few primary steps that may be help relieve some of your symptoms:

  • Ice and a compressive wrap can be applied to the toes to reduce any pain, redness, or swelling that is present
  • Over-the-counter NSAIDs may also help address the inflammation, though these can cause side effects and should not be taken without your healthcare provider's approval
  • Abstain from pain-causing activities
  • Regularly elevating the leg

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you notice a new bump on your toe or a recent enlargement of a pre-existing growth, it is important to have your foot examined by a healthcare provider. This is especially true if the bump is painful or if you are experiencing other symptoms like swelling or discoloration.

While most toe bumps are asymptomatic and can be well-managed at home, some are not and should be treated immediately. A physical evaluation is usually necessary to determine the cause of your specific toe issue and the appropriate treatment strategy. 

Even if they are small in size, a bump on the foot or toes can be very painful and is worth getting checked out by a healthcare provider.


There are many different diseases and conditions that can cause a bump on the toe. Some, like a lipoma, a skin tag, or a ganglion cyst, can be asymptomatic and are usually left untreated. Others, like gout or a malignant tumor, should be addressed immediately by a healthcare provider. Paying attention to the appearance of the growth and any coinciding symptoms can help you determine the cause.

A Word From Verywell

Noticing a new or enlarged growth on your toe can be an unnerving experience. While your mind may immediately go to the worst-case scenario, in most cases a bump on the foot or toes is due to a very benign condition.

If you have concerns about your foot or if the growth is painful, be sure to reach out to a healthcare provider for advice. They will be able to properly diagnose the bump and outline the treatments that are available.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a lump on toe be cancer?

    While a lump on the toe may be cancerous, this is extremely rare. In these uncommon situations, the tumor is typically painful and may be accompanied by swelling or difficulty walking. Cancerous toe growths may also cause a fever and inflammatory markers may be present in a blood draw.

  • What do COVID toes look like?

    People who have been infected with COVID may also experience a side effect called COVID toes. When this occurs, the toes become swollen and turn a splotch-like purple color. Blisters or bumps may also form and the area can be painful or itchy. An effective treatment option is still being researched for this condition. 

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Meyr AJ, Doyle MD, King CM, Kwaadu KY, Nasser EM, Ramdass R, Theodoulou MH, Zarick CS. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons® Clinical Consensus Statement: Hallux Valgus. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2022 Mar-Apr;61(2):369-383. doi:10.1053/j.jfas.2021.08.011

  2. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Stiff big toe (hallux rigidus).

  3. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Ganglion cyst.

  4. American Podiatric Medical Association. Bursitis.

  5. American Podiatric Medical Association. Corns and calluses.

  6. Arthritis Foundation. Gout.

  7. American College of Dermatology. Rheumatoid nodules

  8. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Lipomas.

  9. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Skin tags.

  10. Mascard E, Gaspar N, Brugières L, Glorion C, Pannier S, Gomez-Brouchet A. Malignant tumours of the foot and ankleEFORT Open Reviews. 2017;2(5):261-271. doi:10.1302/2058-5241.2.160078