Most people are familiar with bunions, a common foot deformity (especially among middle-aged and older women) in which a bump forms on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe. Less well known, however, is the “mirror” condition that affects the smallest toe, called a bunionette (also known as a tailor’s bunion).
Despite the diminutive name, bunionettes can be every bit as painful as their bigger cousins, presenting a very similar slate of causes and symptoms.
Explaining the Bump on Your Pinky Toe
Just as with “true” bunions, these unwelcome bumps are thought to be caused mostly by faulty foot structures acquired through genetic inheritance. Unbalanced weight distribution across the sole pushes the fifth metatarsal bone out of alignment—your pinky toe drifts toward the fourth digit, and the base of the toe drifts outward, forming a bony bump on the outside of the foot.
In addition, poor footwear that doesn’t fit well or pushes your weight forward can instigate or greatly exacerbate the problem. Narrow, pointy toe boxes and high heels (especially those taller than 2”) are major offenders, which is why tailor’s bunion is much more common in women than men.
More than Just an Eyesore
In the very early stages, you might not feel any discomfort. However, as the condition progresses and the protrusion because larger, you may notice redness and swelling. Pressure and friction from the bunionette rubbing against the inside of your shoe can be quite painful, and can even lead to complications such as blisters and corns.
If you notice a bump on your pinky toe beginning to form, it’s best to take action quickly and early in order to prevent the condition from worsening.
Conservative Treatment Options
In the best-case scenario, your entire treatment procedure will just be a new pair of shoes. Wear heels only sparingly and stick to footwear with wide, roomy toe boxes that offer enough space to prevent painful friction on the bunionette. Special padding may also be used to protect the enlargement from rubbing against your shoe.
For a more robust approach, orthotics may be considered. These devices are custom-made to the exact specifications of your foot and attack the root of the problem, rebalancing the weight across your sole and compensating for the faulty foot mechanics that led to the prominence in the first place.
The Last Resort: Surgery
If conservative approaches fail to provide relief, surgery to permanently correct the deformity may be considered. Your surgeon will select the best procedure based on the X-ray results, the extent of the condition, your age and lifestyle goals, as well as other factors.
In the least serious case, you may only need some swollen soft tissues removed. Larger bunionettes may require some of the bony growth shaved. In the most serious cases, the bone itself may need to be cut, shortened, and repositioned using wires, screws, or a plate.
Recovery may include a period of immobilization (using a cast, splint, or surgical shoe), crutches, and physical therapy. The total duration of recovery may last anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on the type of surgery required and how well you follow all post-operative instructions. The good news is that, with proper care, complications are quite rare, although, as with any surgery, it carries risks (such as infection, nerve damage, and re-occurrence of the deformity).
Don’t let the size fool you—when you notice a little bump on your pinky toe, call the experts. The doctors at Family Foot and Ankle Center stand at the ready to care for your painful metatarsal. With 6 convenient locations throughout the Greater Cincinnati area, we’re right in your neighborhood. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572 to set up an appointment today.