Little Toe Hurts? Four Things to Know About Pinky Toe Pain

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Small Toe / Pinky Toe Pain Whether you call it your little toe, wee toe, baby toe, small toe, fifth toe, or pinky toe, that outermost pedal digit can cause outsized problems.

The big toe, baby toe and heel stabilize the base of your foot

Your foot forms a functional triangle. When you’re standing or walking, your heel supports most of your body weight, with the big toe and little toe stabilizing the forefoot. When you’re running, your big and little toe take on even more responsibility for maintaining your balance.

Your little toe bears a greater risk of injury because of its exposed location. Injuries or abnormalities in your little toe can both destabilize your stance and cause a great deal of pain. Here’s some information about common baby toe troubles.

1.  A broken pinky toe

Your fifth toe is a crybaby. It’ll tell you it’s broken far more frequently than it actually is. But if your pinky toe pain is severe, and persists for more than a day or two, it’s a good idea to let your podiatrist take a look, both visually and with an x-ray.

An x-ray might reveal either an acute fracture (you’ll remember when it happened) or a stress fracture (you won’t recall the inception of that fracture, because it took place gradually over time).

An acute fracture is caused by sudden trauma. The symptoms might include an audible “pop” and significant pain, soon accompanied by a bruise and swelling.

A stress fracture is caused either by repetitive stress consistently applied to a weakened bone, or a period of abnormally elevated stress applied to a normal bone. The symptoms of stress fractures include moderate pain and swelling, both of which will increase with activity and decrease with rest.

There’s a widespread myth that doctors can’t do anything for a broken little toe, so you should just tough it out. While the right treatment for a broken baby toe may be simple, it can be dangerous to ignore a persistently painful pinky toe.

A neglected fracture of a little toe can lead to premature arthritis, chronic pain, and permanent deformity.

How to treat a broken pinky toe

Remedies for a broken little toe can include using the adjacent toe as a pinky toe splint. Taping the little toe to its inner neighbor will provide stability and protection during the healing period.

More serious pinky toe fractures can require a cast or wearing a protective shoe. In the rare case of small toe dislocation, the bones may need to be realigned before the little toe is taped to its buddy.

2.  A sprained pinky toe

Small Toe / Pinky Toe Pain

A sprained little toe results when a ligament is damaged by overstretching. (Ligaments are the tough strands of collagen fiber that attach one bone to another.) The same sort of traumatic event that causes an acutely fractured baby toe can also cause a sprain.

Sprain symptoms include throbbing pain whenever the toe is moved, tenderness to the touch, swelling, and bruising.

There are three different categories of sprains for a sprained little toe:

  • Grade I sprains involve minimal pain and some minor loss of function.
  • A Grade II small toe sprain will evince moderate pain and limited weight-bearing.
  • Grade III sprains are extremely painful. A Grade III sprain won’t let the toe bear any weight at all.

Grade I sprains of pinky toe ligaments will generally heal on their own. Your podiatrist may prescribe walking boots for some Grade II and most Grade III sprains. Some Grade III sprains may damage the ligament so severely that surgical repair is required.

3.  Corns and calluses on the baby toe

When skin is consistently subjected to harsh friction, a protective area of rough and thickened dermis will naturally develop. This condition, variously known as a callus or a corn, can be a benefit to manual laborers and those who love to run barefoot. But corns can be painful and calluses can be considered unsightly.

What causes corns

Small Toe / Pinky Toe Pain

Corns are usually caused by wearing footwear that is too tight. Hard corns generally form on top of your toe knuckles or on the outside of your little toe.

Soft corns usually occur in the delicate skin between your toes. They are kept moist by sweat and are prone to infection.

A soft corn that remains untreated can become attached to deeper tissue. This condition is known as a fibrous corn. A vascular corn is one that contains blood vessels within its structure. Fibrous and vascular corns can be excruciatingly painful.

How do calluses form?

Calluses form when there is excessive rubbing between your foot and the inside of your footwear.

Treatment of corns and calluses

The first line of defense against corns and calluses is making sure that your footwear properly fits your feet. If corns have already developed, you can use moleskin to cushion the impact between the corn and your shoe.

Orthotic shoe inserts are designed to improve the fit between your foot and your shoe. They will redistribute your weight and eliminate excessive friction and pressure. Your podiatrist can create a custom set of orthotics for you.

Can you get a bunion on your little toe?

Yes, you can. Bunions are the product of misalignment of the joint between a toe and its matching metatarsal bone. (Metatarsals are the long bones along the top of your foot that join your toes to your ankle.) Most bunions affect the base of the big toe.

What’s a tailor’s bunion?

Small Toe / Pinky Toe Pain

A tailor’s bunion occurs when the joint between a little toe and its corresponding metatarsal bone becomes crooked and protrudes outward. This condition became known as a tailor’s bunion because tailors were reputed to ply their trade while seated cross-legged, with the outside of their little toes digging into the ground.

Tailor’s bunions, just like the more standard version, can become very painful.

Unless you are actually an old-fashioned tailor, it’s likely that your tailor’s bunion was caused either by an inherited foot abnormality, or by shoes that are too narrow in the toebox and/or too high in the heel.

Tailor’s bunion treatment

As is the case with many podiatric conditions, treatment for tailor’s bunions starts with making certain that the patient is wearing shoes that fit properly. This means a sufficiently wide toe box and heels of a reasonable height.

Orthotic shoe inserts are also helpful for tailor’s bunions. In some more serious cases, a corticosteroid injection can reduce inflammation. Surgery is available as a last resort to alleviate intractable tailor’s bunions.

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

If you’re experiencing foot problems, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or visit us here to make an appointment online.

Dr. Avanti Redkar, DPM

Dr. Avanti Redkar, DPM

Dr. Avanti Redkar is board certified in podiatric medicine and joined University Foot and Ankle Institute under a fellowship in sports medicine and ankle reconstruction. She attended podiatry school at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and went on to complete her surgical residency at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York, where she was trained in foot and rearfoot surgery, wound care, and hyperbaric medicine.

Dr. Redkar specializes in foot and ankle pathology and is available for consult at our Mid-Wilshire Los Angeles and Beverly Hills locations.
Dr. Avanti Redkar, DPM

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