A bunionette is a bony bump that develops on the side of the little toe, where it joins to the long bones of the foot (metatarsals). Bunionettes are very similar to bunions, which are more common and affect the big toe. Bunionettes are also known as tailor’s bunions because of their historical prevalence among tailors who regularly worked sitting cross-legged with the side of the fifth toe against the ground.
What causes a bunionette?
It’s typically one of two culprits - poorly fitting footwear or faulty foot biomechanics.
Poorly fitting footwear means wearing tight, narrow shoes that have pointed toes or high heels. This is because they force the fifth toe in towards the other toes for up to a whole day. Over time, this will result in changes to the joint itself, with the fifth toe permanently pointing inwards and subsequently head of the metatarsal pointing outwards. This bend creates the bony ‘bump’ that is the bunionette.
Faulty foot biomechanics (the way the foot functions) can also result in bunionettes. If the way you walk is causing you to repetitively roll out onto your fifth toe and push the joint inwards with every step, it is likely that a bunionette will develop.
What does a bunionette look or feel like?
Bunionettes are usually easy to spot, with their distinct hard bump on the outside of the fifth toe joint. Like bunions, bunionettes progressively worsen over time, meaning you’ll start with a small bump that may gradually become larger. This process usually takes years. Other symptoms at the joint include:
- Callus or corns at the side of the bunionette
- Pain on pressure
- Difficulty wearing shoes, especially if they are narrow at the toes
How are bunionettes treated?
Starting treatment as soon as the bunionette is noticed is key. It is much easier to manage a bunionette that is still relatively flexible and in the early stages as opposed to one that is fixed in place and has been present for decades. These fixed bunionettes usually cannot be corrected without surgery, although we can manage and reduce the symptoms.
Here at South Burnett Podiatry, we conduct a thorough examination of your foot and determine if there are any unique factors in play for you. Depending on your symptoms, we may recommend:
- Assessing your footwear - to make sure they’re helping and not hindering the problem
- Orthotics to relieve pressure away from the outside of the foot
- Padding or splinting
- Stretching and strengthening where appropriate
In severe cases, surgery may be an option. While some changes from bunionettes can be irreversible, what can be altered is the rate at which it progresses. Your management will look at the best ways to slow down the progression of your bunion and keep you comfortable.