Pinky Toe Blisters - Causes & How To Prevent
"The outside of my pinky toe hurts when I put pressure on it with my shoe. It’s red, blistered and painful!" Oh the pain when you have to keep walking. Is there anything worse?
Table of contents
- What causes blisters on the outside of little toe?
- How to treat and prevent blisters on your pinky toe
- Broken pinky toe?
- Conclusion - and a funny pic
In this article, you learn about combating the common causes of outer little toe blisters, including:
- Toe shape
- Shoes too tight, too narrow, too loose or too rigid
- The shoe upper being rigid or with prominent internal seams
Little toe blister - Image credit Mom2marathon.com
Then I'll cover the best pinky toe blister prevention strategies, which are:
- Shoe fit
- Gel toe protectors
- Engo blister patches for pinky toe
Fun fact: Pinky toe blisters are THE most common blister location on the whole foot!
What causes blisters on the outside of little toe?
The dominant cause of outside pinky toe blisters is a curly 5th toe. We call it adductovarus. Have a look at your little finger - hold it out straight. Now bend it. See how there are two joints that stick out? Now grab it with your other hand and twist it so your fingernail goes under your 4th finger. Take a look at that first joint sticking right out. Imagine having to wear a shoe on your hand! That joint is going to cop it! More precisely, the skin overlying the prominent joint is going to cop it, being stuck between a rock and a hard place (the toe bone and your shoe upper).
How to treat and prevent blisters on your pinky toe
My pinky toe hurts when I put pressure on it. How can I stop this happening?
1) Shoe-fit and shoe properties
If you’re getting pinky toe pain from shoes, check the following four things regarding shoe fit. Shoe fit is paramount for blisters on the outside of the little toe.
- The toe box of your shoe simply must accommodate your toes, in depth and width. You can’t expect to be pain-free or blister-free without this important aspect of shoe-fit being met. If you’re not sure, stand on a piece of paper and trace around your foot. Now pull the insole out of your shoe and put it on your tracing. Can you cover up all the pen marks? If you can see pen, this is where your shoe is too narrow. Get wider shoes.
- Your heel simply must be sitting right to the back of your shoe. If your shoes are too big and loose and your foot is sliding forward, your toes are jamming into a narrower part of the shoe. Tie your laces firmly to prevent your foot slipping forward.
- Obviously, shoes with a more flexible upper in the region of the little toe will help. If you can make a change, do. But all is not lost. I’ll show you how to cushion your toe regardless.
- Watch for seams in the shoe’s upper, right where the little toe is. They are common and will make the situation worse. You can get around this with one of the following preventions.
Unfortunately, even with all of these aspects of shoe-fit being met, outer pinky toe pain when walking is still possible when your toe is curly. Why? Because we haven’t fixed the root of the problem – the curly toe. That can only truly be fixed by surgery. But there are two more things you can try - to address the pressure and friction that contribute to blisters.
This one location where a simple protective layer in the form of tape, moleskin or an island dressing (eg: Bandaid) can help prevent and relieve pinky toe pain and swelling. If that’s not enough, take cushioning up a notch or two (more like 100) and get a gel toe protector.
3) Gel toe protectors (sleeves or caps)
These devices are great for two reasons:
- They cushion the prominent joints – thereby reducing contact pressure.
- The gel material is excellent at absorbing shear. And remember, the more shear that occurs within the gel material, the less shear that has to happen within the skin of your little toe.
The gel material of gle toe sleeves and gel toe caps is excellent at absorbing the forces that cause blisters. You simply cannot get better. Here’s a little-used technique that prevents the protector from bunching up between your toes AND stops it from slipping off.
A word of caution though, only use gel toe protectors on intact and unblistered skin. If your skin is weakened and weepy, the skin will become soggy and macerated. If already blistered, you’ll have to settle on the island dressing or blister plaster you’ll be using as part of your blister treatment.
4) Engo blister patch
An ENGO Patch is a great way to cover any rough seams on the internal lining of your shoe and the best way there is to reduce friction levels. Consider an ENGO Blister Patch when:
- You don’t think your little toe is curly but you’re still getting blisters.
- The gel toe cover takes up too much room in your shoe.
- If maceration is an issue.
- If you already have a blister
It can be tricky to get all the way down to the end of your toebox for this blister location. Rather than cut your shoe in half like I have for the below demonstration ;) you’ll need to take your laces right out to get good access down there.
Also, be aware that if you’re wearing shoes with mesh uppers, water can get in from the outside, compromise the adhesive and the patch may dislodge. Read more about the pros and cons of ENGO Patches here.
Here’s the ENGO 6-Pack. Use either the large or small ovals from this pack, depending on the size of the coverage you need.
Of course, if your little toe is bent and this is the cause of recurring blistering on the outside of the toe, surgically straightening the toe is one solution. It may seem extreme, and you wouldn’t have toe surgery willy-nilly. But I’ve seen toes where this is a good option. Consider toe surgery if:
- Compromising on shoe fit is not an option (perhaps your work requires it, or it’s just a personal choice).
- There’s no room available for the gel toe protectors.
- You can’t reach your feet to tape or put the gel toe protectors on.
- Your work or active lifestyle requires significant relief and blistering recurs in spite of your best efforts with all of the above
- Your health allows it
Broken pinky toe?
The pinky toe is the most commonly broken toe. Fracturing a toe bone or dislocating one of the joints can lead to a permanently misshapen toe that is susceptible to blister formation. So it makes sense that you do what you can to avoid this.
Most people I see who think they have broken their pinky toe have tried to tape it to the next toe. The problem is, it's quite painful to do so, what with all the inflammation and swelling. The tape ends up being a hindrance whilst serving no benefit at all. Most fractures are small (not right through the bone), so the intact bone prohibits the toe from bending into any unusual positions.
The only time you might choose to tape your pinky toe to the next one is if it has dislocated. Dislocation usually happens without a bone break - but it's just as painful. Dislocating your pinky toe mean you've stretched or maybe snapped the ligament that's meant to be holding one bone in alignment with the next. Your toe might be pointing in the wrong direction and give you quite a shock! Once you've manually pulled the toe straight again, you need to ensure the toe sits straight while the damaged ligaments heal and get back to full strength. It would be best to get some professional advice and treatment on this because the toe is in a vulnerable state and taping the toe in the wrong position or the wrong way could actually cause the toe to change shape. A period of non-weightbearing or semi-weightbearing with crutches is ideal to eliminate the potentially destabilizing forces of gait on your injured pinky toe.
Conclusion - and a funny pic
Pinky toe blisters often deroof and can become very nasty, very quickly. Have you tried any of these options? If you have but it hasn't worked, try the next one - I've ranked these in order of effectiveness. You can use combinations of these strategies too.
Which will you choose to allow you to walk and run pinky toe pain-free?
What number is your pinky toe blister? (Image credit: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)