A Bunionette Vignette

Which word doesn’t belong: 1) flannelette, 2) satinette, 3) bunionette, 4) leatherette? If you picked number 3, good for you! You either made a lucky guess or you know a fair bit about feet. Now, can you define what a bunionette is? Don’t worry—most people can’t, but we’ll fill you in.

A Deformed Little Toe Joint

You may have heard of bunions. This condition is similar, except it occurs on the opposite side of your foot. Here’s what happens: the bones in your little toe gradually start drifting toward the rest of your toes. They are attached to the fifth metatarsal (the long foot bone along the outer edge of your foot), which gets pushed out in the opposite direction.

Imagine bending a drinking straw, and how it forms an angle when the pressure gets too great. When the joint at the outside of your foot bends in this way, it causes the visible bump by your little toe.

The Whys of Bunionette Formation

We say “whys” because there may be different causes, and not everyone agrees on which has the most influence—although the one currently accepted as the prime reason is heredity.

There are certain genetic characteristics in your foot that make developing this deformity more likely. One is having ligaments that are more relaxed than normal, making it easier for the bones to move out of position. Another is the type of foot structure and gait you inherit, which puts more pressure on certain areas of the foot and causes the bones to become misaligned.

Pressure causing this bump is what originally gave the condition another name—tailor’s bunion. The deformity was common among these workers because they would often sit cross-legged on the ground, putting undue pressure on the little toes. Sometimes bone spur forms on the metatarsal head as a result of the friction and stress on the joint.

Are Your Shoes the Problem?

There is a final possible cause—shoes. For many years, both bunionettes and bunions were thought to be caused by wearing tight, pointed shoes which held the toes in an awkward position until the muscles and tendons adapted and the toe stayed that way permanently. Another culprit was thought to be high heels, which caused the feet to slide toward the front of the shoe and cramped them in bent positions.

However, not everyone who wears these shoes gets bunions, and bunions often run in families, so researchers began looking for other reasons. Still, wearing shoes will certainly hasten the development if you already are prone to these deformities.

Treatment for Bunionettes in the Lake Tahoe Region

Consult Dr. Victoria Melhuish if you suspect this small toe deformity is taking hold in your foot. The earlier you start treatment, the better chance you have of halting its progression. Treatment is usually conservative in nature, including shoe modifications, padding, using orthotic supports, icing, and managing pain with oral or injected medications.

However, if the problem becomes serious enough that it is extremely painful or limits your activity, a surgical procedure may be the answer, and we can help you with that, too. Contact Sierra Foot & Ankle in Carson City or Garnderville, NV to set up an appointment and let us evaluate what is needed to bring you relief. Call our office directly at (775) 783-8037 or toll free at (888) 608-8406, or use the request form on our website to schedule. We’ll help you make the choice that is best for your feet.