What Is a Tailor’s Bunion?

Medically Reviewed by Sanjay Ponkshe on May 13, 2023
4 min read

‌Bunions are bony growths that occur in the place where your big or small toe meets your foot. A regular bunion appears on the big toe, and a tailor’s bunion appears on the small toe. 

Tailor’s bunions are also called bunionettes because they are smaller than regular bunions. The tailor’s bunion got its name from clothing tailors. Many years ago, the way a tailor sat to work caused a bunion on their small toe.

A tailor’s bunion happens when there is a misalignment of the bones in your small toe. The shifting of bones causes the joint to stick out where your toe meets your foot. Over time, a tailor’s bunion causes your toe to turn in toward the other toes. Your bunion may be severe enough that your toe begins to grow over or under other toes, impacting how you stand or walk.

Causes of misalignment. Narrow shoes are a leading cause of tailor’s bunions. High heels are even worse because they leave less room for your toes, causing your small toe to get pushed into your other toes.

‌If you sit cross-legged on one foot too much, the pressure of the position may also cause a tailor’s bunion. If you think that standing or sitting positions are impacting your toes, try changing positions often to alleviate the pressure.

Other reasons for a tailor’s bunion include:

  • Hereditary conditions that affect bones in your feet
  • A fifth metatarsal bone that is lower than what is considered normal
  • Walking with your feet leaning out, also called an inverted foot
  • Loose ligaments, also called a splayed foot
  • Tight calf muscles that impact how you stand or walk
  • Arthritis‌

Preventing tailor’s bunions. If you notice the position of your toes shifting, address the issue early. Purchase wider shoes that allow more room for your toes. You can also use a shoe stretcher to make more room in shoes you already own.

A tailor’s bunion can cause mild discomfort or painful symptoms depending on the severity of your condition. While they don’t usually pose any threats to your health, tailor’s bunions may impact your quality of life. The good news is that they are easy to address with surgery, no matter the severity.

Before surgery, your doctor may suggest you try:

  • New, wider shoes that allow more room for your toes
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine to lessen swelling and relieve your symptoms
  • Adding a pad to the side of your foot to prevent friction‌
  • Calf stretches several times a day to release tight muscles

There are several types of bunions, including: 

Mild bunions. A surgeon may remove the portion of your bone that is enlarged. They will also realign the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your foot that shifted because of the bunion. This secures the joint between your toes and gives you the best chance to heal correctly.

Moderate bunions. The position of your bone may have shifted. A surgeon will cut the bone and move it back into position along with ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Severe bunions. The bone growth is removed, but the surgeon may also need to cut your remaining healthy bone to make it fit correctly. Your bone shifts back into place, along with ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

Arthritic bunions. Sometimes other health conditions like arthritis contribute to bone damage. If arthritis causes inflammation that damages your joints, the bone may need to be fused. This process gives a chance for your bones to heal together, eliminating the ability to shift at all.

Not treating your bunion. If you’re aware of a tailor’s bunion and allow your condition to worsen, it may cause pain and discomfort. Eventually, you may have a change in gait when you walk because of changes in how your toes align.

Surgical risks. If home remedies don’t help and your condition impacts your quality of life, your doctor may suggest surgery. Like all procedures, you face the risk of complications, which may include:

  • Stiffness. It may take time for your toe to feel normal again.
  • Numbness. Occasionally, your nerve may be pinched during the procedure, leading to a loss of feeling in the area.
  • Swelling. It’s normal to have swelling after surgery, but if your swelling doesn’t begin to improve, you should talk to your doctor. 
  • Delayed healing. You’ll need to rest and not put too much pressure on your foot for a while after surgery. If you don’t follow your doctor’s care instructions, it can delay your healing. ‌
  • Infection. Any open wound has a chance of infection. Watch your surgical site for signs of infection like redness, swelling, inflammation, and worsening pain. 

Other complications may include:

  • Your tailor’s bunion growing back
  • Nerve damage because of the bunion or because of surgery
  • Overcorrection of your toe alignment