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When a bony bump protrudes out from the base of your smallest toe, it typically goes by one of two names: a tailor’s bunion or a bunionette.
The “-ette” suffix is not as common as it once was, and medical terminology is not something that first comes to mind when you hear it. One usually thinks of performers like the Marvelettes (Mr. Postman) , or the Rockettes (the original line dancers), and even the Chipettes (more recent reference), but not Tammy Wynette. “Bunionettes” just doesn’t have a good ring to it after that.
“Tailor’s bunion” is a more interesting term in our book. It’s a reference to how this condition was prevalent in tailors of olden times, who used to sit cross-legged all day with their little toes rubbing on the ground.
Terminology aside, if you have a tailor’s bunion, steps should be taken to manage its symptoms and slow its progression, just as with a standard bunion. We’re here to help, so do not hesitate to call!
Symptoms of a Tailor’s Bunion
- A telltale bump jutting out from the base of your smallest toe
- Redness and irritation
- Swelling that may change in size day-to-day
- Pain with pressure
- Thickening of the skin (e.g. calluses and corns) where friction occurs between toes or against the inside of a shoe.
- Aggravation of symptoms when wearing narrow shoes
What Causes a Tailor’s Bunion?
If you are familiar with how a bunion forms, then you already have a good idea of the situation.
In a tailor’s bunion, the smallest toe begins to rotate and drift inward toward its neighboring toes. As this happens, the corresponding metatarsal bones in the toe start to angle outward. The result is that the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint – where the toe connects to the foot – is pushed out to the side.
What causes this shift in the first place? You can blame an uneven distribution of forces and pressures against the MTP joint and surrounding tendons, often due to an inherited abnormality in the structure of the foot. Trauma can also cause such an imbalance.
This uneven distribution gradually leads to an instability in the MTP joint, causing the shift to occur over time.
Just as with bunions, there is still debate as to whether tight shoes and high heels can cause bunionettes. Heredity and trauma are still the primary causes, but improper footwear can certainly help make existing tailor’s bunions worse.
An unfortunate combination is a bunion and bunionette. There are few shoes that can make room for both of these deformities. The silver lining is this type of foot will make swimming easier.