All about Bunionettes

Sometimes names can be deceiving. “Bunionette—that’s just a little bunion, right? Probably not worth worrying about. Sounds pretty minor.”

What Is a Bunionette?

Actually, these bony protuberances, also known as Tailor’s bunions, aren’t just undersized versions of their bigger cousins, although the conditions are similar. The main difference is that this bump develops on the outside of the base of your fifth toe, whereas a bunion affects the big toe.

What Causes Bunionettes? What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Don't let bunionettes affect your toes

There are many potential causes, though in most cases the deformity ultimately can be traced back to inherent problems in the structure of the foot. Uneven pressure when walking slowly pushes the metatarsal bone at the base of the pinky toe out of alignment and enlarges it, creating an unsightly bump. Consequently, the pinky toe drifts in the opposite direction, smashing up against the fourth digit. Although this problem does tend to run in families, you can trigger the deformity (or speed up its progress) by failing to take proper care of your foot, mainly by wearing high heels and ill-fitting shoes that pinch the toes—that’s why women tend to develop bunionettes much more frequently than men.

At first you may not notice much discomfort—in the early stages the impairment is more cosmetic than functional. Don’t let that fool you, however. The bump will not heal on its own, and without some preventative care and/or treatment it will get progressively worse over time, becoming painful and swollen. Eventually, it may limit your mobility and prevent you from walking normally.

What Are the Conservative Treatment Methods?

Conservative treatment may be as simple as avoiding high heels and pointy shoes and switching to a pair that fits properly and provides sufficient support. This can help you avoid aggravating the gnarly knob, slowing or even halting its progression. Next-level tactics include in-shoe padding for the fifth toe (to minimize painful rubbing against the inside of the shoe) and inserts or custom orthotics (to correct the underlying problem, dividing pressure more evenly and healthfully across the entire foot). Laser therapy sessions at our Palm Desert office may also help reduce pain and swelling.

What If I Need Surgery?

Surgery, due to the longer recovery process and heightened risk of complications or relapse, is recommended only as a last resort. However, if you’re still experiencing significant pain after attempting conservative methods, especially if your overall mobility is affected, it may be necessary.

The exact type of surgery performed will be carefully selected on a foot-by-foot basis, depending on the severity of the deformity and other factors. That said, most bunionette surgeries are conducted right in our office that do not require post-operative hospitalization. Some may just need affected tissues cut out, while others will need some of the bone removed, or even cut and realigned. More intensive operations may require the use of steel wire, screws, or plates to keep the reconstructed joint in place. Post-operative treatment, recovery times, and complication risks will depend on the type of procedure selected, as well as the individual patient.

The best policy, of course, is to exercise good care and not let the bunionette progress to the point where surgery is necessary. If you notice one beginning to form, call Dr. Harvey Danciger, who serves the Coachella Valley region with high quality foot care. He will carefully evaluate your foot and will work with you to develop and execute a treatment plan—including surgery, if necessary—for your condition and lifestyle. You can reach our Palm Desert office at (760) 568 – 0108 or through this website. For more up-to-date information on our practice and the latest news and trends in podiatric care, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Photo Credit: Alexis via 

Dr. Harvey Danciger
Connect with me
Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle