Bunionettes: Tiny Bumps That Can Be Big Pains

The human foot is a remarkably-complex structure, consisting of 26 bones, 33 different joints, and over a hundred tendons, ligaments, and muscles to support bodyweight and keep us mobile. When bones start to drift and disrupt the natural balance, like what happens in the case of bunions and bunionettes, it can cause problems. Understanding what a bunionette is, and how it can affect you, enables you to know when to seek treatment here at our Indianapolis, IN podiatrist office.

Bunionette Causes and Symptoms

Deformed feet with BunionsWe find that patients are generally familiar with bunions, those protruding bony bumps found on the inside of the foot, right where the big toe connects. A bunionette is a similar condition, only located on the outer edge of the foot by the little toe.  Another name for this is a Tailor’s bunion. This term comes from the turn of the previous century when tailors/seamstresses that would sit cross-legged on the ground to do their work. The outside of their feet would be irritated and swollen.

In this condition, the little toe begins to rotate and drift inward toward the other four toes. As this happens, the corresponding metatarsal bone starts to angle outwards. The result is that the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—where the toe connects to the foot—is pushed out to the side.

The reason the shifting happens and a bunionette forms can be attributed to an uneven distribution of the pressures that accompany weight bearing on the tendons and joints in the feet. An imbalance in this distribution ultimately makes the MTP joint unstable and the components of the joint protrude out to the side.

There is some debate in the medical community as to whether or not tight shoes, particularly high heels, can cause bunions or bunionettes. These deformities are a result of the foot mechanics, hereditary factors (choice your parents wisely), or trauma. With that being said, footwear choices can exacerbate an existing problem and cause a bunionette to become more severe.

The primary symptom observed with a bunionette is the bulging bump found on the outside of the foot right at the little toe’s MTP joint. The body will create a bursa (similar to an air bag) that can change size on a daily basis. Additional symptoms include:

  • Soreness, swelling, or redness around the MTP joint
  • Thickening of skin in the affected area
  • Increased incidents of calluses, especially where the little toe overlaps with the next one over
  • Intermittent or persistent pain that is aggravated by shoes

Treating Bunionettes

Our hope is to always treat conditions with conservative, nonsurgical methods, and this extends to the care we administer for bunionettes. These forms of treatment may include:

  • Splinting or padding – We can reduce the stress placed upon your bunionette by padding the affected foot to reduce shoe pressure or a splint to keep the toe in better alignment. This can improve painful symptoms.
  • Shoe inserts – Prescription orthotic devices are created especially for your unique feet and serve to redistribute pressure more equitably across your foot. This is a valuable method for not only reducing existing symptoms, but also for preventing the condition from worsening.
  • Icing – After spending a long day on your feet, icing can relieve the inflammation and soreness in the area. This will provide acute relief but effective for long term control. NSAIDs have little effect on this other than giving you stomach upset. We will provide you with a recommended regimen for optimal effectiveness.
  • Footwear changes – Shoes that have roomy toe boxes will help to keep pressure off the bunionette and also decrease the risk of corns or calluses developing.

In some cases, conservative care (protection) is not enough. When this happens, correction may be considered. There are several surgical procedures that can fix the condition. Dr. Leibovitz will carefully explain your options so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not this is the course you wish to pursue.

When it comes to preventing a bunionette from worsening in severity, footwear plays an integral role. Choose shoes that do not irritate or cramp your toes and have a wide toe box. Your toes should be able to wiggle freely and there should be a space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Limit wearing pointy-toed shoes and try not to use for extended periods. If you are committed to wearing dress shoes, then they can be modified to allow a little more room.

Dr. Leibovitz provides complete foot and ankle care for residents in the greater Indianapolis community, including effective treatment for bunionettes. Schedule your appointment with our office by calling (317) 545-0505 or use our online form to reach us and receive the treatment you need.