Most of us are familiar with bunions, the bony growths on the outside of the feet near the big toe. But did you know you can get bunionettes too? While the name sounds like something small and cute, bunionettes, also known as a tailor’s bunion, can become quite bothersome.
Read on to learn more about its causes, symptoms and treatment options.
Bunionettes, AKA tailor’s bunion
While a bunion grows on the outside of the foot by the big toe, a tailor’s bunion grows on the outside at the end of the pinky toe (or pinkie toe).
“Tailor’s bunion is a deformity of the fifth metatarsal head or the knuckle just behind the fifth toe (or baby toe) on the outside of the foot,” said Allison Rottman, DPM, a podiatrist with Banner University Medicine in Arizona. “This occurs when the shape of the bone bows outward, which creates a bony bulge on the outside of the foot in this area.”
Over time, a tailor’s bunion causes your toe to turn in toward the other toes. If it becomes severe enough, your toe may begin to grow over or under other toes.
This deformity got its name centuries ago from tailors, people who fit clothes such as suits and pants. They’d sit cross-legged with the outsides of their feet rubbing against the floor all day. This constant rubbing eventually led to, you guessed it, tiny bunions at the base of their little toes.
What causes a tailor’s bunion?
The most common cause of a tailor’s bunion is a poor or weak mechanical structure of the foot, which is often inherited (thanks, mom or dad!). “Sometimes it’s associated with various forms of arthritis,” Dr. Rottman said.
If you’re spending hours in narrow, tight-fitting shoes or high heels, you could aggravate a tailor’s bunion.
What are the symptoms of a tailor’s bunion?
The symptoms of a tailor’s bunion are similar to those experienced with a bunion and can vary in severity, from mildly uncomfortable to painful. You may experience redness, swelling and pain near the base of the fifth metatarsal bone (small toe) where the bony protrusion is. You may become more aware of these symptoms when wearing tight shoes, as the shoe continuously rubs against the skin.
While a tailor’s bunion won’t usually pose any threats to your health, it may affect your quality of life. The good news is that it can be easily addressed with non-surgical or surgical treatments.
[Also read “8 Things Your Feet Tell You About Your Health.”]
What treatment options are available for a tailor’s bunion?
A tailor’s bunion doesn’t just happen overnight. This usually occurs over a matter of years. But once it pops out, there’s no shrinking it back without treatment.
“The first step to treating a tailor’s bunion doesn’t involve surgery,” Dr. Rottman said. “Non-surgical treatment involves wearing shoes that are very wide, wearing supportive shoes and/or inserts, placing padding over the area like moleskin or silicone and stretches to release tight calf muscles.”
You can also take over-the-counter non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help reduce pain and inflammation. Corticosteroid injections, or steroid shots, are rarely necessary to treat a tailor’s bunion.
If home remedies don’t help and your condition affects your quality of life, your health care provider may suggest surgery.
“Surgical treatment involves either shaving off the prominent part of the fifth metatarsal head at the knuckle,” Dr. Rottman said. “If that is not enough, then the bone needs to be broken and shifted over and realigned with a pin or screw to hold the corrected position as the bone heals.”
Recovery for just shaving the bump involves about two to three weeks in a post-op shoe for full weight bearing activities and to allow the skin incision to heal. If the bone needs to be broken and moved over, the recovery tends to be about six weeks in a walking boot for full weight bearing activities and to allow the skin incision as well as the bone to heal.
“This is a straightforward surgery with a very high success rate,” Dr. Rottman noted. “There are newer surgical techniques, such as minimally invasive surgery, to improve and reduce recovery time.”
Is there anything I can do to prevent a tailor’s bunion?
The best way to prevent tailor’s bunions is to wear supportive, roomy shoes that have a wide toe box and avoid those with pointed toes or high heels. If you notice the position of your toes shifting, make sure to address the issue early on with your health care provider.
To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.