Bunionettes or tailor's bunions are a widespread foot problem that many people will develop over the course of their lives. While the condition can be painful and even debilitating in some cases, there are treatments available to address the problem.
What is a bunionette or tailor’s bunion?
A bunionette or tailor's bunion is a deformity of the foot that is marked by a bony protrusion on the outside of the foot below the little toe. Normally, a bunionette is visible as a small bump that sticks out right on the side of the foot where the little toe joins the foot.
Stages of Bunionette Development
Bunionettes are progressive, meaning that they develop over time instead of appearing suddenly. A bunionette will usually develop in stages:
- A small bump forms on the outside of the foot or the little toe bends inward slightly.
- The ligaments that connect the muscles of the toe to the metatarsal bone and the tendons that connect the muscles to one another become stretched, moving the little toe closer to the fourth toe.
- The new position of the toe causes extra pressure on the joint where the little toe meets the foot, the metatarsophalangeal joint. This causes the bump to enlarge.
- The fifth toe becomes so close to the fourth toe that the toes rub together, resulting in the development of corns. Calluses form on the bunionette bump due to rubbing from shoes.
Cause of Bunionettes
Bunionettes can have a number of causes:
- Abnormalities of the foot passed along at birth from parents
- Age-related spreading of the toes
- Flat feet
Wearing tight fitting shoes contributes to bunionette development; however, doctors no longer believe that shoes actually cause tailor's bunions to form. People seem to already have a tendency to develop a bunionette for shoes to worsen the problem.
Who gets bunionettes?
Anyone can get a bunionette, but the problem is more common with age. Women are also more prone to tailor's bunions, and some research has suggested it is related to wearing shoes with high heels or tight toe boxes.
Symptoms of Bunionettes
In addition to the visible bump that signifies the presence of a bunionette, a tailor's bunion can cause:
- Redness and swelling
- Burning or pain
- Corns and calluses
- Limited feeling or numbness in the toe
- Arthritis in the joint of the 5th toe
There are a number of treatments that may be used to ease the discomfort of a bunionette or eliminate the deformity. Normally, doctors begin treatment with conservative, non-invasive methods and reserve surgeries for cases where the tailor's bunion does not respond to other interventions.
Some treatments include:
- Wearing pads to protect the bump on the outside of the foot
- Toe aligners and orthotics to move the fifth toe back into place
- Switching to shoes with low heels and a wide toe box
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin
- Cold packs and compresses for reducing swelling
- Surgical removal of the bunionette, which involves removing bone and soft tissue
- Ultrasound therapy
- Distal Osteotomy, where the fifth toe is repositioned and held in place with pins