Pinky Toe Pain: Causes and Treatments

A person massaging their painful foot and pinky toe.

The baby or pinky toe may seem inconsequential until you experience pinky toe pain. A sore baby toe can make your day miserable, impacting your mobility. If you have a painful pinky toe, there are a variety of possible causes and treatments that can give you relief.

The little or pinky toe is the fifth metatarsal and a common place for pain. If you have toe pain, the pinky toe and the big toe are the most susceptible, as they are on the outside and inside of the foot. Narrow footwear is one of the most common causes of pinky toe pain, but there are many others.

Top Causes of a Painful Pinky Toe

Pinky toe pain can affect your ability to walk and move correctly. Chronic foot pain can result in other physical problems, including joint and back pain. If you have a painful pinky toe, it is important to identify the cause and undergo the necessary treatment for improved function.

While professional diagnosis is recommended for lasting pinky toe pain, you can perform an evaluation to determine the probable cause of your discomfort. The following are the top causes of pain in the fifth metatarsal or the baby toe.

Poor Fitting Footwear
Shoes that put constant pressure on the little toe are one of the most common causes of pinky toe pain. Narrow dress shoes, especially women’s shoes, can squish the pinky toe, resulting in discomfort. Shoes that are too small or narrow can cause the following issues to the little toe:

  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Bunionette
  • Hammertoe
Wearing comfortable shoes that fit properly can remedy many cases of painful pinky toes. While you may like the appearance of certain shoes, they can cause pinky toe deformities that can be very painful and debilitating.
Tailor’s Bunion
When the little toe turns inward toward the other toes, it may be a Tailor’s bunion or bunionette. This is a boney lump that forms on the pinky toe joint that may be visible. Tailor’s bunions can be caused by tight shoes or poor foot mechanics when walking or running.
Treatment for bunions on the pinky toe can include changing footwear and wearing options like bunion pads to relieve pain. However, the only way to remove a bunion is with surgery. There are minimally invasive options for bunionectomy, as well as conventional surgery.

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Pinky Toe Sprains
Injury to the pinky toe is common, especially when you are barefoot or wearing soft or open-toed shoes. If you watch sports, you may have heard of turf toe, a painful sprain of the toes. Pinky toe sprains occur when the little toe is pulled in an unnatural direction, damaging ligaments.
Little toe sprains often will be bruised, red or swollen. This condition can be very painful while it heals. The injured toe should be splinted or taped to keep it from moving. Avoiding soft or tight shoes while the pinky toe heals is recommended.
Fifth Metatarsal Fractures
The small bones in the pinky toe can be fractured easily, resulting in pinky toe pain. A fifth metatarsal fracture can occur when it is stepped on or hit against something solid, but it is not always a single injury. Repeated impact can also produce a pinky toe fracture.
Symptoms of a pinky toe fracture include swelling, pain, bruising and deformity. The pain is usually worse when weight is put on the foot. Pinky toe sprains and fractures can often look similar – it may require a doctor’s exam and diagnosis to determine whether the toe is broken.
Treatment for a broken pinky toe may include splinting or taping the toe while it heals. In severe fractures or dislocations of the little toe, surgery may be recommended, but this is rare.

Corns and Calluses
One of the most common causes of little toe pain is the formation of corns and calluses. Tight shoes rubbing against the pinky toe can create thickened, hard skin. Calluses and corns can result in a painful pinky toe, especially when wearing narrow or tight shoes.

Many corns and calluses can be sloughed away with pumice stones or other skin removal devices. There are also over-the-counter treatments to relieve pain. Pinky toe pads and creams can be beneficial, but severe corns may need to be removed by a foot specialist.
A doctor pointing to a small toe on a foot model.

When to See a Doctor for a Painful Pinky Toe

Many pinky toe conditions can be managed with home care and changes to your footwear. However, if you suspect a fracture or you have chronic pinky toe pain, you should consider seeing a doctor. Podiatrists are foot doctors that specialize in relieving toe and foot pain.

Ingrown toenails, injuries, corns, bunions and tight shoes are the most common causes of pinky toe pain. If you are suffering from a painful pinky toe, schedule a doctor’s appointment to explore treatment options.

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