The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Introducing…the Bunionettes!

Posted by on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

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We’ve talked before about the bunion, the bump that develops on the side of your forefoot, right below your big toe. Let’s give a big hand to the bunion’s lesser known, yet equally painful cousin, the bunionette!

(Note: I don’t actually know if they are cousins, but they definitely seem related. One is big, one is little, and they’re both found on the foot. Sounds like there’s some kind of connection!)

So, where would I find a bunionette? Glad you asked! The bunionette is directly opposite the bunion, on the outer edge of your forefoot, right below your little toe. (Hmm, maybe evil twins would have been more appropriate than just cousins?) The bunionette is kind of the little dog to the bunion’s big dog.

And what is it? Like a regular bunion, a bunionette is a bony protrusion that forms on the outside of your foot when your toe–in this case, little toe–is pushed inward.

Why would my little toe want to push inward? Is it shy and afraid of the outside world? Well, I don’t think the little toe wants to push inward. Rather, it’s forced inward by things like wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe box or that have an unnatural shape that squishes your toes onto each other (yes, we’re talking about you, pointy toed stilettos.)

We can’t always blame it on the shoes, though. A tendency to develop bunionettes actually seems to be hereditary, so if others in your family have them, be on the lookout. Bunionettes are also associated with flat feet; the imbalanced muscles that come with flat feet can lead to the toe pushing in and the bunionette  forming. Poor biomechanics, for example in the way someone runs, can also lead to the development of bunionettes.

Did I mention that bunionettes are also known as “tailor’s bunion?”

No, but you clearly did mention it just now because you want me to ask why it would be called a tailor’s bunion. Yes.

Well, are you going to ask?

Sigh. Okay, why is it called a tailor’s bunion? It comes from what was traditionally seen as the tailor’s pose: the tailor, sitting on a bench with legs crosssed, stitching away. The pressure of the crossed leg on the foot, pushing the outer edge of the foot into the bench, would lead to the bunionette.

That must have been one hard bench. I think we’re talking about pre-Internet times, when pretty much everything about life was uncomfortable.

Got it. Okay, back to the present. Why should I care about a bunionette? I think I could live with that. Congratulations, tough person. I’m glad you have a high pain tolerance. That won’t help, though, when the bunionette keeps rubbing against the side of your shoe, the skin breaks and an infection develops. Or maybe you’ll just form a nasty callus. Or maybe you don’t ever plan to be barefoot so people can see your nasty bunionette.

Fine. So I have a bunionette, what should I do? If you think you have a bunionette developing, you can start by putting little pads, found in your average drugstore, on the area to protect it from rubbing against your shoe and becoming irritated. The next thing you should do is choose shoes with a roomy toe box that allow your toe rest in a natural position, unsquashed and free to move (and be grateful that you have shoes to choose from). Au revoir, bad pointy-toed shoes.

If your bunionette is really far gone, though, or if it’s more a problem of heredity or biomechanics, you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). The podiatrist may suggest orthotics as a way to take pressure off the bunionette, or may advise you to consider surgery. Surgery to correct the bunionette involves chiseling off the bunionette and realigning the bones in that area so the toe goes back to a natural position, with pins holding the bones in place while they heal. You’ll have to wear a cast and keep weight off your feet for a while, but  it does usually solve the problem.

No one dreams of having a bunionette when they grow up, even tailors. If you do have one, though, or have any other foot problem, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.