What is a tailor’s bunion, how is it treated, and how can a podiatrist help?

You’ve probably heard of bunions but what is a tailor’s bunion?

While regular bunions usually affect the big toe, tailor’s bunions affect the little toe. Tailor’s bunions, while not as common as regular bunions, can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. However, our podiatrists are highly skilled at diagnosing and treating them so you can get back on your (less painful) feet.

Read more to learn what causes these lumps, what symptoms to look for, and how we can help you.

what is a Tailor's bunion?

Tailor’s bunion is a bony lump that forms along the side of the fifth metatarsal bone (little toe). Also known as a bunionette, they are not as common as regular bunions, but their symptoms and causes are similar.

bunion on pinky

Where did it get its name from?

These types of bunions got their name centuries ago when tailors used to sit cross-legged all day with the outside edge of their feet rubbing on the ground. This constant rubbing caused the bunion on their small toes, hence they were named tailor’s bunions.

 

signs and symptoms of tailor's bunion?

Tailor’s bunions are characterised by a swollen bump on the outside of the little toe. It may start small but can increase in size over time. Other symptoms include pain and redness, particularly after wearing shoes that rub against the swollen area

What causes tailor's bunion

Most of the time tailor’s bunions are often caused or aggravated by wearing shoes that are too narrow across the toes which cause constant rubbing and pressure. They usually start when you’re young and become worse over time. Eventually, the bunion may become painful and impact your ability to wear shoes.

Who is at risk of developing tailor's bunions?

While the type of shoes you wear will increase your risk of tailor’s bunions, other issues can also increase your risk. These include:

Structural issues to the foot including

loose ligaments in the foot

tight calf muscles

How are tailor’s bunions diagnosed?

Diagnosing tailor’s bunions is usually easy for a podiatrist as the bunion is usually very apparent. However, x-rays may also be used to determine if there are any problems with the bone in the little toe.

What is the best tailor’s bunion treatment?

home treatment

Home treatment for tailor’s bunions is usually designed to help relieve pain, rather than remove the bunion. Effective home treatment can involve:

Podiatry treatment

Podiatrists can also help provide pain relief for your tailor’s bunion if home treatments aren’t effective. Podiatry treatment for tailor’s bunions may include:

In some cases, surgery to remove the bunionette may be necessary. This is particularly the case if the bunion is too large which makes wearing shoes difficult, or if other treatments have not been effective in relieving pain. Surgery may be as simple as shaving off the tissue that is sticking out, or it may be as involved as removing part of the bone in the little toe, to allow it to be straightened.

Non-surgical treatments may help resolve bunion symptoms within 3 to 6 months, while surgical treatment may take as long as 12 months to fully recover from, depending upon how complex the surgery is.

How to prevent tailor's bunions

The best way to prevent tailor’s bunions is to wear supportive, roomy shoes that have adequate room across the toes. Avoid shoes that are narrow across the toes, pointy shoes that squeeze your toes together and high-heels.

Tailor’s bunions can be uncomfortable but with early treatment from your podiatrist, you can relieve pain, and prevent them from becoming a real problem.

frequently asked questions

Orthotics can be useful in reducing the load at the site of the tailor’s bunion to reduce symptoms and progression of the deformity. Orthotics will not correct the existing deformity this can only be achieved through surgery.

narrow toebox shoes can hasten the onset and worsen the symptoms associated with tailor’s bunions.

Regular taping or bracing may help reduce the deviation and slow the progression however there is no non-surgical way to correct the boney change that occurs around the 5th toe joint once a tailor’s bunion has formed.

In the ski boot fitting world, the Tailor’s bunion is often referred to as the 6th toe. Fortunately, symptoms associated with taylor’s bunions in ski boots is one of the easiest boot fitting issues to resolve. A good pair of custom footbeds as well as liner modification and a shell punch are very effective at getting patients back on the slopes pain free.

There are a number of options from prefabricated through to more customised insoles to treat tailor’s bunions and your Podiatrist can help you select which is best for your current condition and desired activity.

This depends on what has caused the enlargement at the 5th toe joint. If it is a boney deformity no the bunion will not resolve on its own. If the enlargement is due to soft tissue swelling such as bursitis – yes there is a good chance that if the aggravating stimulus is removed that the swelling will go down without further intervention.

Tailor’s bunion development is multifactorial in nature (many causes). Some foot types are more predisposed to tailor’s bunion development than others making it a mostly inherited trait. Obviously there are also a number of environmental factors that may hasten the process of 5th toe deviation and boney enlargement – muscular imbalance being one of these risk factors.

These are two different conditions with similar causative factors. Constant pressure on the 5th toe due to ill-fitting footwear can cause skin irritation which may lead to a corn development as well as increase severity of the tailor’s bunion by causing further deviation of the 5th toe.

Regular taping or bracing may help reduce the deviation and slow the progression however there is no non-surgical way to reverse the boney change that occurs around the 5th toe joint once a tailor’s bunion has formed.

A good guide to the correct fitting of footwear for tailor’s bunion is to remove the insole of the shoe and stand on the insole. If the forefoot splays off the edges of the insole you know that the toebox of the shoe is too narrow to accommodate the tailor’s bunion.

This will depend on the sandal, the amount of arch support it provides as well as the locations where the adjustable straps make contact with the foot. If the strap comes directly over the tailor’s bunion and it is tight this might be an issue. 

This depends on what has caused the enlargement at the 5th toe joint. If it is a boney deformity no the bunion will not resolve on its own. If the enlargement is due to soft tissue swelling such as bursitis – yes there is a good chance that if the aggravating stimulus is removed that the swelling will go down without further intervention.

Patient’s with tailors bunions should look for running shoes with sufficient depth and width in the toebox of the shoe. Mesh upper material is also preferred to reduce shear at the site of boney enlargement. Foot orthotics can also be helpful to reduce splay  of the forefoot as it makes contact with the ground.

read this next

bunion

Bunions are a common, progressive condition that we regularly see in our clinic. We are happy to assess your situation and find the footwear, exercises, or medication needed to provide relief.

slim fit custom orthotics

What are custom made orthotics and how do they differ from other orthotics?

request an appointment. ask a question