Do I Have an Ingrown Toenail?

What’s an Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenails are a common foot condition where the toenail is curved and grows into the skin. This most commonly happens at the sides of the nail at the nail borders on the big toes. This digging in of the toenail can cause skin irritation, soreness and pain, redness, swelling, warmth of the toe, and even infection.

The medical term for an ingrown toenail is onychocryptosis. Infection can occur if the ingrown nail causes a break in the skin and bacteria get in. An infection caused by an ingrown toenail is often characterized by drainage and foul odor.

You can do different things at home to treat an ingrown toenail. But it’s important to skip the home remedies and see your podiatrist immediately if you suspect an infection or have diabetes, circulation problems, or numbness in the toes.

You may be setting the stage for ingrown toenails yourself. Read on to learn about this common but pesky foot condition.

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?

There are many possible causes of an ingrown toenail. They can include:

  • Improper nail trimming
    • If you cut your toenail too short or rounded, the nail may grow into the skin.
    • Many people trim their nails so the nail curves with the shape of their toes, but this encourages the toenail to grow into the skin of your toe.
  • Poorly fitting shoes
    • Shoes that are too tight, narrow, or short.
    • High heels transfer most of your body weight toward the front of your foot and put a lot of pressure on your big toes.
  • Toe trauma
    • Ingrown toenails can be a result of trauma. Toenail trauma may include stubbing your toe, having a heavy object fall on your toe, or having the toe stepped on.
  • Genetics
    • You can thank your parents for this one if you’re one of many people in which the tendency for ingrown toenails is inherited.
  • Nail conditions
    • You may be more prone to ingrown toenails if you have a nail condition such as a fungal infection or psoriasis.
    • Toenails tend to curve and thicken as we age.
  • Repetitive pressure from certain sports

Improper nail trimming and poorly fitting shoes are the most common causes of ingrown toenails. But be aware that ingrowns have many causes and can be a condition that develops over time.

Ingrown toenail being worked on by gloved hands and tool

What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails?

Any of your toenails can become ingrown, but this nail condition most commonly affects the big toe. When you first have an ingrown toenail, it may feel hard and swollen.

Some symptoms of an infected ingrown toenail can include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Liquid or pus coming out of your toe
  • Redness or darkening of the area
  • Toe feeling warm or hot
  • Odor

Home Treatment for Ingrowns

If you suspect you have an ingrown, it is not infected, and you don’t have a complicating medical condition like diabetes or other circulatory disorders, you can soak your foot in lukewarm water with Epsom salts two or three times a day for 15 minutes. Massage the skin at the side of the toenail, gently pushing it away from the nail. Make sure you dry your foot thoroughly after each soak.

There are a few important things to remember if you are going to treat your mild ingrown toenail at home:

  • Do not cut a notch in the nail.
  • Refrain from trimming nail borders. 
  • Over-the-counter medications will not be effective in treating ingrowns. Topical medications may help mask the pain, but they do not fix the problem.

Do not attempt to remove any part of an infected nail. You should see your podiatrist, who can diagnose and properly treat nail problems.

Two feet and lower legs soaking in a bath tub

When Should I See a Podiatrist for My Ingrowns?

If the toenail isn’t better after three to five days of conservative, at-home care, or it becomes infected, you should schedule an appointment with your podiatrist. You may need to take an oral antibiotic for the infection, and your podiatrist may need to remove the ingrown part of the nail.

If you notice drainage, pain, or excessive redness around the toenail, you should schedule an appointment with your podiatrist right away.

Remember, if you have diabetes or poor circulation, you should see your podiatrist immediately at the first signs of an ingrown toenail, as it can lead to more serious foot and health complications due to poor circulation and damaged nerves in the feet.

Your podiatrist will remove the ingrown portion of the nail. This is called an avulsion. They may also prescribe medication to treat the infection.

In more severe cases, your podiatrist may have to perform a total avulsion and remove all of your toenail. It can take a few months for your nail to regrow.

If you experience ingrowns that keep occurring, your podiatrist may suggest a matrixectomy. During a matrixectomy, your podiatrist not only removes a portion (or all) of the ingrown toenail, but they also treat the base of the nail (called the nail matrix) with a chemical that prevents the nail from growing back again.

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails?

Here are a few things you can do to prevent getting ingrown toenails:

  • Don’t rip or tear your nails.
  • Don’t round the corners of your toenails to match the shape of your toe when you’re trimming them. Trim your nails straight across.
  • Wear shoes that fit correctly.
  • Don’t trim your toenails too short.
    • Don’t trim the nails any shorter than the edge of the toe.
  • Check your feet!
    • If you have diabetes, you should check your feet regularly for signs of ingrown toenails and other foot problems. 
  • Wear protective footwear.
    • If your job or other activities put you at risk of injuring your toes, you should wear protective footwear.
  • See a podiatrist to regularly have your nails trimmed if you can’t trim them yourself or if you have a condition that causes poor circulation in your feet.

Having an ingrown toenail can be a mild inconvenience or a very painful experience. Our podiatrists at Western Montana Foot and Ankle have more specialized training and experience treating ingrown toenails than any other medical professional.

If you’re suffering from an ingrown toenail, don’t hesitate to get help. Reach out to our office and get scheduled to see one of our podiatrists.

Diabetes and Your Feet — The Importance of Diabetic Foot Care

You Have Diabetes. Now What?

So, you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. There’s a lot for you to manage. You must check your blood sugar, be active, stay on top of your medications, make healthy food choices, and so much more. It can be overwhelming, to say the least.

With so many things going on, your feet might be at the bottom of your priority list. However, approximately half of all people with diabetes have some sort of nerve damage, a common complication of diabetes. You might not be thinking about your feet at all. But you should be! Diabetic foot problems are a major health concern for someone with diabetes. If ignored, diabetic foot complications can cause hospitalization.

Daily care is the best form of prevention when it comes to foot complications and diabetes.

What is Neuropathy?

There are various types of neuropathy, but we’re going to focus on two:

  • Diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage caused by diabetes. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves. 
  • Peripheral neuropathy — a specific type of nerve damage that includes any nerve damage outside the central nervous system. Think of your feet, legs, arms, and hands.

Neuropathy can cause tingling, pain, and numbness in your feet. When you lose feeling in your feet, you will not feel things you usually would. Nerve damage can lower your ability to feel pain, heat, or cold. 

That doesn’t sound too bad, right? But living without pain in your feet comes at a steep price. Pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong. You might not feel things like a small rock in your shoe or a blister on your foot. This can lead to cuts, sores, and even more serious issues if those cuts and sores become infected and turn into ulcers.

Factors That Increase Your Risk of Nerve Damage:

  • High blood sugar levels that are difficult to manage
  • Being overweight
  • Being older than 40
  • Having elevated cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
  • If you’ve had diabetes for an extended period of time
A woman in yoga pants. Two bare feet on a yoga mat.

How Can Diabetes Affect My Feet?

Diabetic foot complications are a common cause of hospitalization. Foot complications affect more than 20% of individuals with diabetes. Approximately 20% of patients with diabetes are hospitalized because of foot problems.

  • Nerve Damage:
    • Neuropathy in your feet can cause serious complications. 
    • Diabetes can cause blood vessels to narrow and harden, resulting in poor blood flow in your feet, which means small wounds like those once trivial blisters, calluses, and cuts on your feet might become infected and may not heal well.
    • Chronic nerve damage can also cause dry and cracked skin on your feet which can allow bacteria to enter the foot and cause an infection.
  • Charcot’s foot:
    • While rare, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of your feet.
      • Charcot’s foot can start with redness, swelling, and a feeling of warmth in your foot. 
      • It is a progressive condition that is characterized by the gradual weakening of your bones, joints, and soft tissues of your feet and/or ankles.
      • This can eventually lead to the bones in your feet and toes shifting or breaking, which can cause your feet to have an odd shape.

Complications from diabetes can lead to painful open sores on your feet that don’t heal. If an infection doesn’t get better with treatment, you may need to be hospitalized. Part of your toe, foot, or leg may need to be amputated to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.

How To Prevent Serious Diabetic Foot Problems

Seeing your foot and ankle surgeon regularly for periodic foot exams can help prevent complications that can be caused by diabetes.

Here are some other things you can do to prevent serious diabetic foot problems:

  • Check your feet every day — Check for cuts, blisters, swelling, redness, sores, corns, calluses, or any other change to the skin or nails. If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, ask someone for help! Or use a mirror if you prefer to perform the daily foot checks yourself. Call your doctor or podiatrist if you notice anything unusual.
  • Wash your feet every day — Wash in warm water — not hot! And don’t soak your feet for too long. Dry your feet thoroughly after washing.
  • Moisturize your feet — but don’t moisturize between your toes (we don’t want any fungal infections)! You don’t want your skin itching or cracking.
  • Never go barefoot — Ever. Even when you’re inside, make sure to wear shoes and socks or slippers. Before putting your shoes on, make sure the lining is smooth and there isn’t anything, like a small rock, that can cause irritation.
  • Cut your toenails carefully — trim your toenails straight across and smooth sharp edges with a nail file.
  • Get your feet checked! Your local podiatrist will be happy to examine your feet. They can help remove corns and calluses, and help trim your toenails. 
  • Don’t remove corns and calluses yourself — visit your podiatrist.
  • Wear clean, dry socks and change them daily.
  • Wear shoes that fit well. Always wear socks with your shoes. When breaking into your new shoes, do so slowly. 
  • Keep your feet warm and dry.
  • Don’t smoke — smoking restricts blood flow to your feet.
  • Get moving! Exercise is excellent for poor circulation as it stimulates blood flow in the legs and feet.
  • Diabetic shoes and insoles — your podiatrist may recommend you use diabetic shoes and/or inserts. These custom orthotics and/or shoes can help prevent ulcers, protect the anatomic integrity of your feet, and control the pressure of the foot.
Two tan slippers on a woman's feet on a tile floor

Why Choose a Podiatrist?

If you’re a diabetic, you can prevent serious foot complications by being mindful of your feet and your diabetes. It’s important to work with your diabetes care team to help manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.  

Foot and ankle surgeons are the leading experts in foot and ankle care. They have extensive training as doctors of podiatric medicine (also known as podiatrists, foot and ankle doctors, or DPMs) and are board-certified surgical specialists with more education and training specific to the foot and ankle than any other healthcare professional. They deal with the prevention, diagnosis, and management of foot problems every day.

You can trust your podiatrist to treat any conditions that affect the foot or ankle, whether simple or complex. From custom orthotics to diabetic foot exams, to any surgery required because of diabetic foot complications, your foot and ankle doctor will be a valuable member of your diabetes care team.

All our podiatrists at Western Montana Foot and Ankle would be happy to help you on your diabetic care journey.

The Diabetes Epidemic

What is Diabetes?

November is diabetes awareness month, so what better time to learn about diabetes? Make sure you read our article that focuses more on diabetic foot care and the importance of working with a podiatrist if you currently suffer from diabetes.

The number of Americans living with diabetes is staggering. 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. If you think that’s alarming, consider the fact that 97 million American adults are living with prediabetes! With over 10% of the U.S. population living with diabetes, we are a nation hugely affected by this disease.

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affects how the body uses blood sugar or glucose. There are different causes and types of diabetes.

The Different Types of Diabetes:

  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Prediabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone that originates in the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind and below the stomach. Insulin is released by the pancreas to lower the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.  

Glucose is a source of energy for the cells in our bodies that make up muscles and other tissues. It has two primary sources which are food and the liver. 

In all cases, regardless of the type of diabetes you have, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. High sugar levels are caused because the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. 

Two hands, testing blood sugar

Diabetes in the U.S. By the Numbers:

  • Over 38 million people have diabetes in the United States
  • Nearly 30 million people have been officially diagnosed with diabetes
  • 8.7 million people have diabetes and don’t even know it
  • Nearly 98 million US adults have prediabetes
  • According to the CDC, medical costs associated with diabetes were about $12,000 per person in 2022.
  • The estimated total cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2022 was $413 billion

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can start at any age. However, it usually begins during childhood or in an individual’s teen years. It was once called juvenile diabetes. In this condition, the pancreas makes little to no insulin. In many cases, it’s the body’s own immune system that destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily insulin administration. Even after years of research, no definitive cause or means of prevention has been discovered. Treatment focuses on managing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream using insulin injections, diet, and lifestyle to prevent complications.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 diabetes, and it can develop at any age. More than 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It’s most common in people who are older than 40. However, research shows that the number of children developing type 2 diabetes is increasing.

Type 2 diabetes affects how your body uses sugar for energy. It prevents the body from using insulin properly, which can lead to consistently high levels of blood sugar if not treated.

Type 2 diabetes is often preventable. Some of the main factors that contribute to developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, not getting enough exercise, and genetics. The earlier you can diagnosis type 2 diabetes the better. The best way to detect diabetes early is to get regular check-ups and blood tests.

Medications and blood sugar meter


Despite its name, prediabetes is a serious health condition. During prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. A staggering 98 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes.

More than 80% of Americans who have prediabetes don’t know they have it. 

During prediabetes, your cells no longer respond as they should to insulin. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to try and get your cells to respond. Your pancreas is eventually unable to keep up, and your blood sugar levels rise.

You can have prediabetes for years and not experience any obvious symptoms. Prediabetes often goes undetected until more serious health problems arise. This is why it’s important to regularly check your blood sugar during checkups with your primary care physician.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those that indicate full-blown diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. It is diagnosed through prenatal screening.

Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. These women tend to have no symptoms of their gestational diabetes, which is why it is so important to have the proper tests during their pregnancy screenings.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms generally depend on how high your blood sugar levels are. For some people, symptoms are easy to spot. For others, it can take years for the disease to be noticed and diagnosed.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can be even less noticeable than symptoms of type 2 diabetes initially, and they tend to come on very suddenly. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to come about more gradually.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.

Some symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Feeling tired and/or weak
  • Increased feelings of thirst 
  • Increased urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises
  • Increased frequency of infections.
  • Feeling irritable
  • Mood changes
  • Unexpected or unexplained weight loss
  • Ketones in urine 

Diabetes Complications

People with diabetes have an increased risk of other health problems, including stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. Diabetes is known to cause many long-term health complications that can seriously affect your quality of life.

Many people with diabetes also develop problems with their feet from poor blood flow and nerve damage. In extreme cases, this can cause foot ulcers and may lead to amputation. 

  • Heart disease and blood vessel disease
    • Diabetes majorly increases the risk of many heart problems. These can include coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, and the narrowing of arteries.
  • Nerve damage from diabetes
    • “Diabetic neuropathy”
    • Too much sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish nerves, especially in extremities like your legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upwards.
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
    • Damaging the blood vessels of the eye can lead to blindness.
  • Foot damage
    • Nerve damage or poor blood flow to the feet can increase your risk of many foot complications.
  • Hearing problems
  • Skin and mouth conditions
    • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Type 2 diabetes may increase your risk of developing dementia.
orange juice, grapes, avocado, green grapes, toast, and an orange surrounding a bowl of oats with fruit and chia seeds on top.

Diabetes Prevention

While you can’t prevent type 1 diabetes, healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent and treat prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Here are some ways you can prevent diabetes in your life:

  • Healthy foods — Opt for foods that are lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Avoid sugars and saturated fats. Focus your diet around whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Activity — Stay active! 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is a good goal. Daily walks are a great way to get some extra steps in. 
  • Lose excess weight — Reach and keep a healthy body weight by setting realistic fitness goals. If you’re overweight, losing just 7% of your body weight can lower the risk of diabetes.  
  • Do not smoke tobacco

Long-term changes to your eating and exercise habits play a large role in preventing and managing diabetes.

Each diabetes journey is unique. It’s important to monitor your diabetes closely and have a team of medical professionals to help guide you and advise on what changes you can make to manage your diabetes best.

Why Are My Toenails Discolored? 9 Signs You’re Suffering from Toenail Fungus

What is Toenail Fungus?

You may have noticed one or more of your nails are slightly discolored. Instead of a healthy-looking toenail, it may appear white or yellow-brown in color. This can be a sign of toenail fungus.

Onychomycosis, or toenail fungus, is a common infection that occurs underneath the nail surface. If you’re suffering from toenail fungus, fungi have found their way between your toenail and your toenail bed. Toenail fungus isn’t confined to a single toe. It can occur on one toe or on many toes at the same time.

The thicker toenails fungal nails cause are often difficult to trim and can make walking painful when wearing shoes. If you’re suffering from toenail fungus, you’ll notice a progressive change in your toenail’s quality and color. It’s normal to feel embarrassed or upset about the discoloration and misshapen nature of a toenail(s) affected by this infection.

What Causes Toenail Fungus?

Anyone can get a fungal nail infection. Your toenails are especially vulnerable to fungi in damp areas where you are likely to be walking around barefoot. Think of your local swimming pool, locker rooms, gyms, and showers. Any injury to the nail bed, even pressure from your shoes, can make you more susceptible to infection.

A particular type of mold called a dermatophyte causes tinea unguium, which is the most common nail fungus. Dermatophytes cause 90% of all toenail fungal infections and need keratin to grow. Keratin is the main building block of your nails and is what makes them hard. This, in combination with the fact fungal infections grow best in dark, moist environments, means your feet and toenails are more susceptible to this particular fungus than other areas of your body.

There are a few factors that can make you more prone to fungal nail infections. If you:

  • Suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes
  • Have circulatory problems
  • Have immune deficiency conditions
  • Have had athlete’s foot in the past or have fungal skin infections on other parts of your body
  • Have a skin condition like psoriasis that affects your nails
  • Walk barefoot in damp public areas
  • Have hyperhidrosis (a disorder that makes you sweat a lot)
  • Have a toenail injury

Toenail fungus is a common condition, especially as you start to age!  While toenail fungus affects approximately 1 in 10 (10%) people overall, that number jumps to 1 in 2 (50%) people for those older than 70.

What Are Common Symptoms of Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is often ignored because the infection can be present for many years without causing any pain to the patient. Symptoms of nail fungus can include a nail or nails that are:

  1. Thickened
  2. Brittle or ragged
  3. Discolored
  4. Cloudy in some spots
  5. Crumbling at the edges
  6. Misshapen
  7. Separated from the nail bed —leaving space between your nail and the skin underneath
  8. Smelly
  9. Cracked

What Can I Do at Home for My Fungal Toenails?

There are a few things you can do at home to help treat your fungal nails. Daily cleansing can help temporarily suppress mild toenail infections. Over-the-counter liquid antifungal agents may also help with fungal nails, however, these over-the-counter treatments may not prevent a fungal infection from coming back. It’s important to remember trying to get rid of the infection without the help of a qualified medical professional, like a podiatrist, can lead to more problems.

Should I See a Podiatrist for Fungal Nails?

The short answer is yes!

Some people like to try self-care steps when they first start to notice the signs of toenail fungus. These at-home options may clear mild cases of fungal toenails. However, it’s a good idea to see your local podiatrist if you notice your toenails are becoming increasingly discolored, misshapen, and thickened.

The earlier you seek professional care from your podiatrist, the greater your chance of success at getting your nails clear and back to normal.

It’s important to see your podiatrist if you’re experiencing swelling or pain around the nails, having difficulty walking, or if you’re bleeding around the infected nails. It’s especially important to see your podiatrist if you’re a diabetic and think you’re developing toenail fungus. 

If you’re suffering from a severe case of nail fungus, it can be painful and cause permanent damage to your nails or lead to other serious infections that spread beyond your feet.

How to Diagnose and Treat Fungal Toenails

Luckily, it’s a straightforward process to determine if you’re suffering from a fungal toenail infection, and your podiatrist can do this in the early stages of infection by performing a lab test in which a small sample from underneath your nail is taken and analyzed or by performing a culture test.  

You and your podiatrist will decide on the best course of action to clear your toenails of a fungal infection. Treatments can vary depending on the severity and nature of the infection. 

Toenail fungus is known for being tricky to treat. You may need to treat toenail fungus for many months to get rid of it completely. And unfortunately, toenail fungus often comes back.

Treatment can include topical or oral medications, antifungal medications, and temporary or permanent removal of the infected nail. The most effective toenail fungus treatment for you will depend on your specific symptoms and situation, and your podiatrist will take several factors into consideration before recommending a treatment plan for you. 

Unfortunately, it can be a long and frustrating process to completely clear up the infection. It’s important to remember toenails grow slowly, and it may take 12 to 18 months before you see the complete resolution of fungal nails, even with the correct treatment.

How Do I Prevent Toenail Fungus?

There’s no foolproof way to guarantee you won’t ever get toenail fungus. But here are a few steps you can take to help prevent it:

  • Wear flip-flops in public showers, locker rooms, and around swimming pools. Don’t be barefoot in these places if you can help it!
  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Fully dry your feet after a bath or shower.
  • Don’t share nail clippers with other people.
  • Keep your toenails short and clean.
  • Don’t be aggressive with your nail trims. Trim your toenails straight across, and don’t round the edges!
  • Change your socks regularly.
  • Wear shoes that fit you correctly. Nothing too tight or loose around your toes.
  • Clean your nail trimmer before each use
  • If you’re a diabetic, make sure you’re following all foot care recommendations from your podiatrist or health care provider.

Why Choose a Foot and Ankle Surgeon?

Each of our doctors at Western Montana Foot and Ankle are board-certified surgical specialists. They have more advanced training than any other healthcare provider when it comes to your feet and ankles.

It’s key to remember you shouldn’t let a treatable condition like toenail fungus prevent you from wearing the shoes you want to wear. Toenail fungus is nothing to be ashamed of and one of our podiatrists at Western Montana Foot and Ankle can help you clear the infection.

What’s a Tailor’s Bunion and How Do I Treat It?

What is a Tailor’s Bunion or Bunionette?

You’ve probably heard about bunions. Since an estimated 30% of Americans have had a bunion at some point, you probably know someone who’s had a bunion! But have you ever heard of the less common tailor’s bunion?

While regular bunions usually affect the big toe, a tailor’s bunion, or a bunionette, affects the fifth metatarsal or little toe. 

Don’t let the cute name fool you. Bunionettes can become quite painful and problematic. They can also impact your ability to wear your favorite pair of shoes.

Image of a right foot showing what a tailor's bunion (bunionette) looks like.

Where Did the Tailor’s Bunion Get Its Name?

This deformity got its name hundreds of years ago when tailors often sat cross-legged on the floor all day to work. In this position, the outside edge of their feet rubbed on the ground. That friction eventually led to a painful bunionette at the base of their little toe.

What Causes a Tailor’s Bunion?

Tailor’s bunions are often caused by wearing shoes that are too narrow across the toes. High heels and pointed-toe shoes are the worst culprits in this area. They usually leave even less room for your toes than your typical shoes. This causes rubbing and pressure that over time can result in a bunionette. The bone will bow outward, which creates a bony bulge on the outside edge of your foot. This typically occurs where your pinky toe meets your foot.

Did you know you can be genetically predisposed to bunions? Genetics can also play a role in whether you develop not just a bunionette but your typical bunion as well, regardless of what types of shoes you wear. Thanks, mom and dad!

Other Causes of a Tailor’s Bunion Include:

  • A protruding fifth metatarsal bone which causes the little toe to move inward
  • Bone growth (bony spur) on the side of the fifth metatarsal
  • Arthritis
  • An inverted foot which causes you to walk with your feet leaning out.
  • Loose ligaments in your foot – also called a splayed foot
  • Tight calf muscles that can impact how you stand or walk

If the tailor’s bunion becomes severe enough, you may notice your little toe starts to turn in towards your other toes. Over time, your bunionette may get to the point where you’ll have a toe growing over or under your other toes. This deformity can affect how you stand and walk.

A woman in high heeled boots

Common Signs and Symptoms of Bunionettes

Tailor’s bunions are characterized by a bump on the outside edge of the little toe. The size of the bunionette can vary. They may start small and then increase in size over time.

Other signs of a tailor’s bunion include:

  • Red, swollen, and/or a callus on the outer edge of your pinky toe
  • Pain and burning over the site of the enlargement
  • Pain worsens over the course of the day, but this pain does not radiate to other parts of your foot.
  • Narrow or pointy-toed shoes make pain worse
  • Being barefoot usually relieves pain

What Can I Do About My Tailor’s Bunion?

Diagnosing a tailor’s bunion is usually a straightforward process. Typically, the bunionette is easy to spot by both you and your doctor. Your podiatrist may also use X-rays to view the extent of the deformity and to see if there are any additional problems with the bones of the little toe.

While a tailor’s bunion won’t usually pose any serious threats to your health, it may affect your quality of life. Pain is never something you have to live with.

If you’re dealing with a tailor’s bunion, there’s good news. Bunionettes can be easily addressed with both surgical and non-surgical treatments. Depending on the severity of your tailor’s bunion, conservative treatment options may alleviate your pain without the need for surgery.

Two bare feet

Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Wearing wider shoes that have plenty of room in the toe area so you’re not forcing your toes to crowd each other. 
  • Avoid wearing narrow, high-heeled, and pointed shoes.
  • Padding the painful area with moleskin or a silicone pad may help relieve pressure and reduce rubbing against your shoes.
  • Finding a way to reduce the callus (if present) may also give you relief.
  • Custom orthotics can help depending on your specific foot type
  • Stretches to release tight calf muscles
  • Icing the bunion can reduce pain and inflammation. To avoid skin damage, avoid applying ice directly to the skin.
  • Pain and inflammation can sometimes be managed by over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. These types of medications can help lessen your symptoms and swelling.

When Is Surgery Needed?

Your podiatrist may recommend surgery when conservative non-surgical treatments are not providing you relief from your symptoms or your tailor’s bunion becomes so large that you’re unable to wear most shoes.

You’ll be happy to know that surgical options for your tailor’s bunion are usually straightforward and have a good success rate.

Your surgical options will vary depending on the severity of your bunionette. Surgery may be as simple as shaving off a small portion of the growth that is causing your pain.  Or it can be more complicated and involve the realignment of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that have shifted because of the bunionette. Sometimes this means the bones themselves need to be shifted and moved so they can be realigned with a pin or screw to hold them in the corrected position as the bone heals. 

Your recovery time will depend on which surgical procedure, or combination of procedures, you and your podiatrist agree upon.

Why Choose a Foot and Ankle Surgeon?

Foot and ankle surgeons are the leading experts in foot and ankle care. Each of our podiatrists at Western Montana Foot and Ankle are doctors of podiatric medicine and are board-certified surgical specialists. They have more education and specialized training that focuses only on the foot and ankle than any other healthcare provider. 

If you or someone you know has a bunionette or tailor’s bunion that is affecting their quality of life, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our foot and ankle surgeons here at Western Montana Foot and Ankle. We are privileged to serve our patients and look forward to getting you back on your feet and enjoying everything Western Montana has to offer.