Among people born with a turned fifth toe, about 20-30% acquire it on both feet, affecting males and females equally. Different types of turned pinky toes include curly toes, hammer toes, tailor’s bunion, and an overlapping pinky toe. Problems related to the pinky toe are mostly inherited and caused by an injury or trauma, ill-fitting footwear, and being overweight. Treatment options for the disorder include conservative management like toe taping, toe spacing, and lifestyle modifications. Some severe cases include invasive techniques like Botox and surgery.
During summers, it’s hot, and our feet are in flip flops and visible to the outside world. That makes some people get very insecure about their toes. Especially when their pinky toes are out in the open and the deformity it may have is evident.
They experience a lot of self-consciousness because of their pinkies compared to the rest of their body. The crooked pinky toes are often a subject of ridicule and jokes. It’s no laughing matter and is an issue for some people.
Is your pinky toe being turned sideways a cause for concern?
Our body weight lies on the base of the big toe and the heel mostly. The weight is on the medial (inner) side of our foot. So, since the pinky has so little load to bear, there is no reason for alarm if it gets turned sideways. It may cause difficulties but will not debilitate your overall health.
Complications of untreated, turned pinky toes can be:
- Permanently shortened or turned toes
- Rigidity and no movement in the toe
Types of turned pinky toes
1. Curly toe or adductovarus toe
This deformity appears when the tiny toe bends into the foot, and the whole toe bends down at every joint. The toe underlaps and curls up into itself. It looks like the toe is hidden down and inwards. Caused due to a tight tendon under the toe, it seems to run in families.
2. Tailor’s bunion
Also called bunionette deformity, it is a toe abnormality that causes the little toe to turn outwards. It also forms a bump on the outside of the toe. It is caused by friction on the bony projection of the pinky toe, mainly due to constrictive shoes.
3. Hammer toe
Hammer toe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of the last toe. It occurs when the ligaments and soft tissue of the toe become tight due to imbalances of the structures around the joint. The tightness around the joint sometimes can fold the toe inside and inward.
4. Overlapping toe
An overlapping pinky toe is sometimes inherited. Thought to be caused by the crowding of the toes inside the womb before birth. Along with the overlapping toe, the position of the toe also gets rotated sideways sometimes.
25% of babies born with overlapping pinky toes spontaneously recover without any treatment. Spontaneous recovery is a phenomenon where a deformity resolves itself over time, may take months to occur.
Causes for pinky toe turning sideways
The stability of the pinky toe mainly depends on the joints surrounding it. The metatarsophalangeal joint (joint between your toes and the entire foot) is the main joint that controls all of the toes, including your pinky.
Before considering any treatment, it is vital to have a thorough evaluation of the toe deformity. It should be done at all the joints close and away from your pinky toe.
Your turned pinky toe may not just be cosmetically unpleasing. It may also lead to painful calluses and joint abnormalities.
When your feet are in a cramped-up space, it begins to take that shape. It causes your toes to get turned or curled over time.
The muscles and tendons of the joints in your foot are the stressed cause of the abnormal position of the foot inside improper shoes.
Injury or trauma
A fracture that hasn’t healed properly can also cause your toe to become crooked. You may ask, why do we get so many injuries and defects related to just the little toe and not the other toes next to it?
The answer is, the little toe does not have any protection on one side. Unlike the other three toes, it is exposed, unprotected, and prone to injury on that side.
Some of us have turned toes by birth. There are hereditary causes for crooked and turned. A tendon underneath your toe that pulls the toe inside becomes short.
Some people are born with taut tendons, and it seems to run in families over generations.
Obesity is associated with claw toes and crooked toes. The extra weight carried by the body causes a strain on the joints and soft tissues of the foot.
Treatments for a sideways pinky toe
The solution to a crooked pinky toe can vary depending on the severity of the condition. How much the deformity has permanently set into the toe and if the toe is still malleable. We can opt for many lifestyle changes and conservative treatments. Surgery is a last resort.
Altering the way you choose your regular footwear and opting for wider and comfortable shoes which have room to accommodate your foot will help your toes assume their natural alignment.
Wear lower heels or flats instead of stilettos. You may reserve the high heels for special occasions only.
Exercises and stretches help your muscles and tendons become more flexible. In addition, working with a physical therapist will help you build strength in the muscles on the toes and foot.
Taping techniques have shown significant improvement, especially for babies with toes turned or curled.
It can also be incorporated as an effective complementary treatment technique for adults with bent or turned pinky toes.
Toe spacers are effective for alleviating problems associated with crooked toes. They are available over the counter and used with shoes-on during the day and at night-time.
Orthotic devices like toe splints and toe wraps help maintain a straight position of your toes. Doctors recommend it when the toe is flexible, and they can treat it without surgery.
Botox helps relieve spasticity (permanent stiffness of a muscle). It acts as a nerve block and relaxes the muscles. So it brings the toes into their normal position by reducing muscle tension.
Surgery is the last option if the turned pinky doesn’t respond to the treatment techniques mentioned.
If your toe has become rigidly crooked and bent outwards and does not move from that position, and it is associated with pain that causes problems with walking, then your doctor may advise surgery.
Surgery is done by cutting a small section of the bone and aligning the toe in the correct position.
How can I straighten/fix my little toe?
It’s crucial to seek appropriate help from the correct medical practitioner. If all of these methods fail and pain makes it unable to manage daily life activities, in that event, doctors advise surgery.
Can toe stretching defeat toe problems?
Yes, toe stretching and massages along with toe wraps, splits, and separators have shown to be effective in treating most symptoms associated with toe problems.
Do flip-flops cause hammer toes?
While wearing flip-flops, you curl your toes to grip onto the shoe. Wearing them all the time and for long periods can cause shortening of the underlying muscles and may result in hammer toes and curling of toes.
How long is the recovery for hammer toe surgery?
The surgery for hammer toe is an outpatient procedure. You may go home the same day of the surgery. You will have a surgical boot to be worn at home. At 2-4 weeks post-surgery, your stitches and pins will come off. Complete recovery usually takes 6-8 weeks.
- Turned pinkies are somewhat common and treatable non-invasively. Turned pinkies are related to foot problems such as calluses, blisters, bunions, and claw toes.
- Wearing proper shoes, taping, toe spacers, and inserts can be enough to reverse the deformity.
- Surgery takes place only when it seriously impairs your function. Turned pinkies or crooked toes are often more successfully treated in babies than adults, so to start early treatment is very important.
- Talk to a doctor if you have pain related to the pinky toe or any other symptoms.