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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ndidi Ufondu, DPM

Bunion vs. Bunionette: What's the Difference?

If you have ever noticed a bony bump on the side of your foot, near the base of your big toe or your pinky toe, you may have wondered what it is and what causes it. These bumps are called bunions and bunionettes, respectively, and they are common foot deformities that can affect your comfort and mobility. In this article, we will explain the difference between a bunion and a bunionette, what causes them, how to prevent them, and how to treat them.


Bunion and Bunionette

What is a bunion?


A bunion is an abnormal enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe, where it meets the first metatarsal bone of the foot. This joint is called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, and it is responsible for bending and straightening the big toe. When a bunion develops, the big toe becomes angled inward toward the other toes, pushing the MTP joint outward and forming a protrusion on the inner side of the foot. This can cause pain, inflammation, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the big toe. It can also make it difficult to find shoes that fit comfortably and do not rub or press on the bunion.


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What is a bunionette?


A bunionette is a similar condition that affects the joint at the base of the pinky toe, where it meets the fifth metatarsal bone of the foot. This joint is also called the MTP joint, and it is responsible for bending and straightening the pinky toe. When a bunionette develops, the pinky toe becomes angled outward toward the edge of the foot, pushing the MTP joint inward and forming a protrusion on the outer side of the foot. This can also cause pain, inflammation, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the pinky toe. It can also make it hard to wear shoes that do not squeeze or irritate the bunionette.


What causes bunions and bunionettes?


The exact cause of bunions and bunionettes is not fully understood, but there are several factors that can contribute to their development. These include:

  • Genetics: Some people inherit a foot structure or shape that makes them more prone to developing bunions or bunionettes. For example, having flat feet, low arches, loose ligaments, or abnormal bone alignment can affect how the weight and pressure are distributed across the foot and increase the risk of bunions or bunionettes.

  • Footwear: Wearing shoes that are too tight, narrow, pointed, or high-heeled can squeeze the toes together and force them out of their natural position. This can put excessive stress on the MTP joints and cause them to become enlarged and deformed over time.

  • Foot injuries: Trauma or damage to the MTP joints from accidents, sports, or other activities can also lead to bunions or bunionettes. For example, stubbing or fracturing a toe can alter its alignment and cause it to deviate from its normal position.

  • Arthritis: Inflammatory conditions that affect the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, can cause swelling and inflammation in the MTP joints and make them more susceptible to bunions or bunionettes.

  • Age: As people get older, their feet tend to widen and flatten due to loss of elasticity in the ligaments and tendons that support the foot structure. This can also change how the weight and pressure are distributed across the foot and increase the likelihood of bunions or bunionettes.


How to prevent bunions and bunionettes?


The best way to prevent bunions and bunionettes from developing or worsening is to wear shoes that provide enough room for your toes to move freely and comfortably. Here are some tips for choosing footwear that can help prevent bunions and bunionettes:

  • Look for shoes with wide, round, or square toe boxes that do not squeeze or compress your toes.

  • Avoid shoes with pointed or narrow toe boxes that force your toes into an unnatural position.

  • Avoid shoes with high heels that shift your weight forward and put more pressure on your toes.

  • Choose shoes with good arch support that help maintain your foot alignment and balance.

  • Choose shoes with cushioned soles that absorb shock and reduce stress on your feet.

  • Replace your shoes when they become worn out or lose their shape.

  • If you have flat feet, low arches, or other foot problems that affect your gait or posture, consider using orthotic inserts or custom-made shoes that can correct your foot biomechanics and prevent bunions or bunionettes.


How to treat bunions and bunionettes?


If you already have bunions or bunionettes that cause you pain or discomfort, there are several treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. These include:

  • Home remedies: You can try some simple home remedies to ease the pain and inflammation of your bunions or bunionettes, such as applying ice packs, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, using padding or tape to protect the affected area from friction, and doing gentle exercises or stretches to improve the flexibility and mobility of your toes.

  • Physical therapy: You can also consult a physical therapist who can design a personalized exercise program to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support your foot structure and prevent further deformity of your bunions or bunionettes. They can also use modalities such as ultrasound, massage, or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and inflammation in your MTP joints.

  • Orthotics: You can also use orthotic devices such as splints, braces, or spacers that can help realign your toes and reduce the pressure on your bunions or bunionettes. These devices can be worn at night or during the day, depending on your preference and comfort level.


Conclusion


Bunions and bunionettes are common foot deformities that can cause pain, inflammation, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in your toes. They are caused by various factors that affect the alignment and balance of your foot structure, such as genetics, footwear, foot injuries, arthritis, and age. You can prevent bunions and bunionettes by wearing shoes that fit well and provide enough space for your toes to move freely. You can treat bunions and bunionettes by using home remedies, physical therapy, orthotics, or surgery, depending on the severity of your symptoms and the degree of deformity. If you have bunions or bunionettes that bother you or interfere with your daily activities, you should consult a podiatrist who can diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment plan for you.


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