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What Are the Most Common Causes of Little Toe Pain?

Baby's foot being massaged.
Woman's toes.
Underside of a woman's feet.
Ingrown toenails have been known to cause little toe pain, although they're more common on big toes.
High-heeled shoes may cause toe pain.
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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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Little toe pain may be caused by a minor injury or it may be caused by a more serious fracture. Some of the most frequent causes of pain include a broken toe, a stubbed toe, an ingrown toenail, corns or bunions on the feet. Wearing high heeled shoes on a daily basis is the most common cause of little toe pain in women.

Bunions caused by arthritis or by wearing ill-fitting shoes may cause little toe pain. Bunions are characterized by a deformity of the bone or of joint tissue, particularly when joints have experienced a prolonged period of stress. Bunions, and the pain that accompanies them, frequently occur at the joint of either the big toe or that of the little toe.

Corns are calluses that form on the toes as the result of friction, usually from wearing ill-fitted shoes. Little toe pain is commonly attributed to corns, as the smallest toe is often exposed to friction by wearing shoes that are either too tight or that are too loose and cause the toe to rub against the inside of a shoe. Corns on the little toe heal on their own after the stress that caused them is eliminated.

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Little toe pain may also be caused by injury, such as stubbing the toe or it may be caused by a break at the base of the fifth metatarsal bone, located just behind the little toe. This particular type of fracture, also known as a Jones fracture, is commonly confused with an ankle sprain. Little toe pain caused by a Jones fracture sometimes disappears by resting the foot, but at times a cast or surgery may be needed for the foot to completely heal.

Ingrown toenails are also known to cause little toe pain. Usually, these originate on the great toe, but can actually occur on any of the toes. They are the result of the nail’s edge growing into the skin of the toe. This inward growing causes extreme irritation, swelling and pain in the toe.

Women are particularly at risk for developing little toe pain. Such is often the cause of wearing shoes that are too tight, that significantly narrow in the toe area or that cause stress to the foot by holding it at a particular angle, such as is common in women who wear high heels. Podiatrists recommend that women only wear high heels when necessary, but allow the foot to rest by wearing athletic shoes and flat shoes at other times.

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Discuss this Article

anon332921
Post 12

After reading this I think I will let my little toe do what it wants and cut it off if it becomes too bothersome. I am not willing to deal with these things and definitely not willing to deal with doctors.

StarJo
Post 11

@golf07 – Corns are really bad when you get them in the winter, when you have to wear shoes that cover your toes to stay warm. Even if I stop wearing the pair that caused them to develop in the first place, any other pair that I wear will rub against them, so even shoes that are normally comfortable to wear become irritating.

The only way I know how to deal with corns in winter is to use those pads you can get to stick on them that prevent anything from rubbing against them. This feels much better than just wearing socks and shoes.

I don't care how cute a pair of shoes is. If the shoes cause me to get corns, then I will get rid of them. This is the only way to avoid corns in the future.

lighth0se33
Post 10

I often stub my little toe on items under my desk. My computer modem, my wastebasket, and my printer all have been kicked hard by me accidentally before, and each time, I scold myself for doing this again.

There is no pain quite like stubbing your little toe. It is almost like hitting your funny bone, because waves of numbness and pain radiate throughout my foot at the same time. I usually shed at least one tear when I do this.

I have taken to wearing slippers whenever I sit at my desk. They are soft and thick enough to bear the brunt of sudden contact, so they keep my pinky toe safe.

wavy58
Post 9

@simrin – It sounds like you may be suffering from sciatica. Your sciatic nerve starts in your back and runs down your leg, so that would explain the pain.

My sister has sciatica, which means that this nerve is compressed. She has often complained of lower back pain and a shooting pain that goes all the way down to her little toe. She also experiences numbness at times in her toes.

She has to do special exercises to relieve her symptoms. It's good that you will be seeing a doctor soon, because the symptoms can worsen if you don't do something about them.

orangey03
Post 8

@burcidi – You can always switch to flip-flops in the warm months. They don't even touch your little toe, so they can't make it hurt.

This is what I did. My dress code at work is casual yet neat, so I can get away with wearing fashionable flip-flops. These are the ones with decorative items on the thongs, like beads or flowers, and some of them even have a slight heel for added style.

This is the only type of heel I know of that won't hurt your little toe. I have some hot pink flip-flops with yellow flowers on the thong and a little one inch heel in the back, and they look just beautiful with a pink or yellow dress. So, though many people associate flip-flops with being sloppy, they don't have to be that way.

John57
Post 7

Having any kind of toe pain is miserable, especially if you are on your feet most of the time.

I have arthritis and developed bunions on my little toes. Most people get them on their big toes, but mine are called bunionettes because they are on each of my little toes.

These are painful, bony lumps that form and make it painful when there is any kind of friction against them. Sometimes the toe joint pain is worse than others and taking a pain reliever helps alleviate some of the pain.

My doctor told me these are often hereditary, and they often come in pairs, which explains why I have one on each little toe.

I try to wear shoes that give this area a chance to breathe, but that isn't always easy. I find myself putting my feet up as often as I can, and soaking my feet in warm water and vinegar when they are really hurting.

SarahSon
Post 6

@myharley - Yes, I have stubbed my toes many times in the middle of the night. I don't think you are alone there.

When it comes to foot and toe pain, the most painful thing I have experienced is an ingrown toenail. I don't wear high heels or tight fitting shoes, so had no idea how I got this.

It was very sore and tender and wearing any kind of shoe made it worse. My doctor told me it was caused by the way I was trimming my toenails. I had never heard of such a thing.

He said your toenails should not be rounded, but be trimmed straight across. I had to soak my foot for several days and he also put a splint on my little toe for some added protection.

I haven't had any other problems, and want to avoid having that type of pain again.

SteamLouis
Post 5

Has anyone ever experienced inconstant toe pain and numbness?

I have not had direct injury to my toe and I don't think it's caused by my shoes either. This pain comes and goes at odd times and it has happened both while resting and while standing or walking. Sometimes it's like a burning sensation and other times, it's a sharp pain. I don't have an ingrown nail.

I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my lower back recently. I'm wondering if there could be a possibility that injury to nerves in another part of the body can reach all the way down to the nerves in the foot?

I will be seeing my doctor in two weeks but just wanted to know if anyone else has experienced something similar to this. Please share if you do!

myharley
Post 4

How many other people have stubbed their little toe in the middle of the night trying to find their way to the bathroom?

There are many times I have stubbed my big toe when I am cleaning or not watching what I am doing, but it seems like when I am groping my way in the dark, I manage to stub my little toe.

This pain really wakes you up in a hurry and the throbbing seems to last for days. I had a friend who broke her toe this way, and all she could do was wait for it to heal.

Of all the toe pain causes there are, I think this is probably the most embarrassing way to tell someone how you broke or stubbed your toe. It is amazing how something so tiny can cause you so much pain.

golf07
Post 3

I work in a women's retail clothing store, so wear high heels to work most days. I am on my feet all day long, and at the end of the day my feet are killing me.

In the summer by the end of the day, my feet were swollen and I had some toe pain and numbness in my feet. I also developed a corn on one of my little toes which caused some discomfort when I had my shoes on. One corn on one little toe can really be painful.

I got to the point where the pain wasn't worth it, so thought I would see if there was an improvement if I didn't wear high heels for a month.

It is hard to describe the relief I felt, and my symptoms eventually went away. I still love the look of high heeled shoes, and wear them once in awhile, but never want to go back to that kind of constant irritation.

I have found shoes that still look professional and dressy without being so hard on my feet and toes.

turquoise
Post 2

Once I was at the airport carrying my laptop. I don't know how it happened but my laptop case slipped out of my hand and fell on the right side of my foot where the little toe is. I was wearing sandals since it's summer, so it hit my little toe really badly and hurt like crazy!

I sat down and waited a few minutes to see if the pain would go away. There wasn't swelling, it just looked really red and hurt when I tried to step on it. There was a cafe near where I was sitting so I asked them for some ice and put it on my little toe for about twenty minutes.

This helped a lot and I could at least walk to my flight. I did have pain in that toe for about a week but thankfully, it healed on its own and I didn't need to do anything extra. I was so worried when the injury happened though. I thought for a minute that I had a broken little toe. Phew!

I never, ever wear open shoes when flying now in case something similar happens again.

burcidi
Post 1

I have little toe pain at night a lot when I wear high heels and also in the summer.

I don't think my heels are too tight. But for some reason, standing on my feet too much with heels is painful for my toes, particularly the little one. Even when I get home and take my heels off, my little toe hurts for the rest of the day and sometimes even the next day.

My feet also hurts a lot in the summer because of sandals that touch the little toe. In the heat, any rubbing from shoes causes so much more damage and pain than it does in the cold. I don't remember how many times I've gotten calluses and little bubbles of skin on my little toe because of summer shoes. I spend most of summer with my little toe in a band-aid.

I'm more careful now than I have been in the past with shoes. Shoes are so important! They're capable of causing so much discomfort and feet problems!

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