You’ve probably heard of bunions, those uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) bumps that grow on feet. You may not have heard of a bunionette, though. Despite the name, the bunionette is not a cute little bunion that dolls develop on their adorable teeny feet. Bunionettes are very much real- life problems. They develop at the place where the fifth metatarsal bone (metatarsals are the long bones in the middle of your foot that connect to your toes) and your pinky toe meet. In fact, this type of bunion is often referred to as a Tailor’s bunion, since tailors (a long time ago) used to sit with the outside edges of their feet rubbing against the ground, which sometimes resulted in a bunionette.
Like most bunions, bunionettes are enlargements of the joint where the little toe meets the metatarsal bone. A bony growth or bone spur can also develop. This enlargement makes the foot deform; basically the toe and the metatarsal bone start orienting in the wrong direction, and the joint area pokes further and further out towards the outside of the foot. This creates a funky sort of bump on the outside of your foot just below the pinky toe. The main problem is that this bump can start to rub against the insides of your shoes (especially those wretched tight ones with the pointy toes), which can cause significant discomfort or pain, and make the whole problem progressively worse.
Bunionettes are often caused by existing deformities in the foot, which may be inherited genetically (just don’t use your bunionette to give your mother a guilt trip), or may have arisen during development, or come about because of an injury.
The most obvious symptom of a bunionette is the protrusion you can see and feel at the bottom of your little toe. It’ll probably be firm to the touch. However, in addition to this, you may notice that the enlargement becomes swollen, red, and painful, especially when you wear the high heels that you should have given up years ago. You may also find it difficult or painful to move your little toe around.
When you start experiencing some of the above symptoms, it’s probably a good idea to go in to see your podiatrist, who can help you relieve the pain from your bunionette. He or she will likely make the diagnosis by looking over your foot visually and examining the area by feeling it. An X- ray may be necessary to find out exactly how bad the problem is.
The main problem with bunionettes is that they rub against shoes, and can make walking very painful. In order to reduce the pain associated with your bunionette, your podiatrist may try treating it by using padding (often non- medicated bunion patches) to reduce that painful rubbing. Your podiatrist may also strongly suggest that you change the type of shoes you wear. If you find yourself in heels higher than an inch or two, it’s probably time to give them up (unless you really want to give yourself really big, unsightly bumps and cripple yourself with pain, of course). Make sure the toe end of your shoes (toe box) accommodates easy movement of your toes. It should never be tight. (So toss out those shoes with the pointy toes, too. The fashion industry isn’t concerned with the welfare of your feet, so you definitely don’t owe it any loyalty.)
The above changes may help a lot. To relieve pain further, your podiatrist may have you try anti-inflammatory medication (like ibuprofen, or an injected anti-inflammatory like cortisone), and ice to reduce swelling (always use a thin towel between the ice and your skin, and don’t leave ice on for more than twenty minutes at a time).
If you’re still experiencing pain from your bunionette even after these measures, then surgery may be the best option for you. In fact, surgeries on bunionettes are usually pretty successful at getting rid of the pain (after healing from the surgery itself, of course). Depending on how severe the deformity in the joint is, your surgeon may simply get rid of the bony growth on the joint, or may have to cut and realign the bones involved in order to get things fixed up.
No matter the treatment, following the advice and instructions of your podiatrist will help you kick your bunionette problem for good.