Pinky Toe Blisters - Causes & How To Prevent

by Rebecca Rushton 2 Comments

Oh the pain of a blistered little toe! Is there anything worse?

When your pinky toe hurts and you have to keep walking, you'll be so glad you read this article. Learn about combating the common causes of outer little toe blisters, including: toe shape; shoes too tight, too narrow, too loose or too rigid; and the shoe upper being rigid or with prominent internal seams.

Read this article if your pinky toe blister is under or between your toes.

pinky toe blister

Little toe blister - Image credit Mom2marathon.com

 

    Then I'll cover the best pinky toe blister prevention strategies, which are:

    • Shoe fit
    • Taping
    • Gel toe protectors
    • Engo blister patches for pinky toe
    • Surgery

    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).

     

    curly pinky toe is commonly blistered
    A curly pinky toe (adductovarus) is commonly blistered

     

    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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

     

    pinky toe pain from shoes

    The importance of shoe-fit cannot be overstated in preventing little toe blisters

     

    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.

     

    2) Pre-taping

    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.

    Fixomull Stretch
    Fixomull Stretch - Learn more 

     

    3) Gel toe protectors (sleeves or caps)

    These devices are great for two reasons:

    • They cushion the prominent joints thereby reducing 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.
    You can grab the BlisterPod Gel Toe Protector Sleeves and Caps from our online store - they're a deluxe double thickness gel toe cover for the ultimate in toe cushioning and protection. 

     

    Gel toe sleeves

    Gel toe caps

     

    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.

    Engo blister patch protects from rough seams
    ENGO Patch placement on shoe upper for little toe protection

     

    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, below. Use either the large or small ovals from this pack, depending on the size of the coverage you need.

    ENGO Blister Patches 6-Pack

     

    5) Surgery

    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?

    pinky toe pain from shoes is the worst!

    What number is your pinky toe blister? (Image credit: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)





    Rebecca Rushton
    Rebecca Rushton

    Author

    Podiatrist, blister prone ex-hockey player, foot blister thought-leaderauthor and educator. Can’t cook. Loves test cricket.


    2 Responses

    Rebecca Rushton
    Rebecca Rushton

    November 30, 2019

    You haven’t mentioned anything about blisters John. It’s important to know that not everything that feels like a hot-spot is a pre-blister state. Watch this: https://youtu.be/OFPqLsGt56E

    John Wolfe
    John Wolfe

    June 24, 2019

    Hi Rebecca,
    Was getting pain on foot just below the big tow and an examination showed that was where all my weight was going.I had a pair of orthotics inserted and made a difference in that the hot spot was now spread across the upper foot pad below the toe line.I had more cushioning applied to the orthotics as well purchased a pair of Anti Blister Armaskin socks. Went for a 20 klm walk and found feet were still sore and felt some hot spot.Can you offer any other suggestions.

    Leave a comment


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