Our little toes or “pinky toes” are important for helping us maintain our balance when we stand or move. Injuries or deformities to this toe can be painful and can throw off our gait. We’ll look at the most common causes of little toe pain and how we treat them.
Broken or Fractured Pinky Toe
Broken, fractured, and sprained pinky toes are extremely common. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned athlete or someone in the twilight of your life we’re all prone to hurting this delicate digit. But what’s the best way to treat this injury? Most often rest, splinting and/or buddy taping may be all that’s needed. But if the injury is more severe surgery may be required.
While some people may want to treat this type of injury on their own, it’s always best to get it evaluated by a podiatrist. Putting off professional treatment can lead to future disability.
Little Toe Stress Fracture
A special kind of pinky toe fracture is a stress fracture. Stress fractures develop over time and are caused by participation in high impact activities like running and sports that involve jumping. Most often these activities are a problem when an athlete or weekend warrior ramps up their activity too quickly. But in addition, wearing shoes that do not adequately support the foot can also put more stress on the little toe and lead to injury.
Treatments for little toe stress fracture include rest and keeping the toe from moving. Similar to a broken or fractured toe, splinting and buddy taping may be recommended.
To prevent a future stress fracture, learn more at "What Is A Stress Fracture and Who’s At Risk"?
Dislocated Little Toe
Sharp pain and a tearing or snapping sound are signs of a dislocated toe. A dislocation means one or more bones have come out of position. If your toe looks crooked, you’ve likely dislocated it. Before treatment your podiatrist will exam your foot and may take an X-ray to confirm it.
Treatment involves putting the little toe bone back in place after numbing the area with an anesthetic. Your podiatrist will likely send you home with tape, splint, or walking boot to help it heal.
Tailor’s bunions or bunionettes form on the outside of the little toe. Just like regular bunions on the outside of the big toe, Tailor’s bunions are brought on by faulty foot structure and are made worse by wearing high heels and pointy shoes. Sitting cross legged on one foot too much can also be a culprit in worsening a Tailor’s bunion.
Bunionettes can be treated non-surgically which can help reduce pain and stop progression. Padding and custom orthotics are most often recommended as are shoes with a wider toe box. Surgery may be needed if more conservative procedures aren’t effective.
Learn more here about treatment and prevention of Tailor’s Bunion.
Corns and Calluses of the Little Toe
Corns and calluses of the little toe are caused by a thickening of the skin due to increased pressure. While they may not look like much, they can cause a lot of pain.
Treatment of corns and calluses include trimming and use of pads to offload the pressure that caused it. Toe separators can also be used to reduce the pressure. In addition, custom orthotics can help if there is an underlying foot deformity. Shoes that fit properly can also help relieve the pressure on the little toe.
If you have a little toe that bends upward or curves inward, you may have a hammertoe. Hammertoes form for many of the same reasons as Tailor’s bunions—wearing shoes with a narrow toe box or having faulty foot mechanics such as flat feet. People with Tailor’s bunions are also more prone to develop a hammertoe on their little toe.
Treatment for hammertoe includes correcting faulty foot mechanics with orthotics and other treatments. For more information visit, “Early Treatment Can Prevent Serious Hammertoe Problems”.
Home Treatment for Pinky Toe Pain
Before heading to your podiatrist, here are some things you can do to treat a painful pinky toe at home.
For acute injuries:
- Stop all activities and rest as much as possible. Avoid putting weight on your toe.
- Ice your toe for up to 20 minutes at time using an ice pack or frozen peas wrapped in a thin towel.
- Elevate your foot higher than your heart.
For offloading pressure:
- Use Dr. Jill’s toe separators
- Wear shoes with a wider toe box such as Alegria for woman and Hoka for men.