Medical News Today: What is a tailor’s bunion?

A bunion is a bony bump that forms along the side of the foot. A tailor’s bunion occurs when this bump is on the outside of the foot, at the base of the little toe. Tailor’s bunions are also called bunionettes and are less common than regular bunions.

As the name would suggest, tailor’s bunions were common in tailors who often sat cross-legged on hard surfaces so they could work more efficiently. Today, tailor’s bunions are mostly influenced by poorly fitting shoes and structural problems in the feet.

There are some treatment options available for tailor’s bunions, as well as some things to do at home that may help ease symptoms. In some cases, surgery to remove the bunionette is the best option.

What are the symptoms?

Woman with tailor's bunions holding onto her foot in pain having taken off her running shoe and sock.
Tailor’s bunions appear on the outside of the foot, close to the little toe.

The defining symptom of a tailor’s bunion is a swollen, hard bump on the outside of the foot near the little toe.

The bump may grow over time and may appear red and painful. The swelling, redness, and pain may also get worse as the foot rubs up against a shoe throughout the day.

Tailor’s bunions may appear on one or both feet. A person who has bunions on both feet may find that the way they walk causes one bunion to be worse than the other.

It is also possible that a person has both tailor’s bunions and regular bunions. In which case, the foot would have a bony bump on either side.

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The foot is a complex structure, and unfortunately, many shoe manufacturers do not take this into account. Wearing poorly fitting shoes, tight shoes, or shoes, such as high heels, that place the foot at an odd angle may lead to bunions.

Foot and ankle conditions can also influence a tailor’s bunion. Someone with poor ankle strength or tight calf muscles may be more prone to bunions. Genetics may also play a role in the development of tailor’s bunions. A person whose parents have bunions due to flat feet or abnormal toe bones may also find themselves with bunions.

Tailor’s bunions typically develop gradually. The bunionette may start forming when a person is young, but may not be painful until much later.

What are the treatment options?

Mature man holding x-ray of foot bones.
An X-ray may be needed to ensure there are no other problems with the bones of the foot.

Though usually visible, a doctor may still order an X-ray image to check for any underlying problems with the bones of the foot.

Once doctors have confirmed the existence of a tailor’s bunion, they will discuss treatment options. Medical treatments for a tailor’s bunion range from managing the symptoms to surgically removing the bunion.

Doctors may inject corticosteroids into the area around the joint of the little toe to reduce swelling.

They may also recommend the person switch their shoes or order custom-made shoe inserts to cushion the bunion and avoid harmful friction.

Doctors will often recommend home treatment options to help alleviate symptoms.

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Home remedies

Home remedies for a tailor’s bunion aim to reduce symptoms and help manage pain. There is a range of options available to help manage symptoms:

Ice packs and elevation

Doctors may recommend icing the affected foot three to four times a day for 10 minutes at a time. Elevating the feet may also help reduce swelling.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Some over-the-counter NSAIDs may help reduce pain and swelling, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil).

Increasing strength and flexibility

Doing exercises to stretch and strengthen the foot and calf each day may help reduce pressure on the bunion by encouraging the foot to walk correctly.

Change of shoes

Wearing comfortable, flexible shoes with a wide toe box may help relieve pressure on the bunion. Shoes that are narrow, stiff, or have high heels may make symptoms worse. In some cases, special order shoes can be made to fit a specific foot.

Arch support insoles

Shoe insoles made to support the arches of the feet may reduce pressure on the bunionette. An orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist can help the person decide how much arch support they need.


Many bunion-cushioning pads are available from local pharmacies. These are rings of a silicone-like material that fit around the bunion and help absorb the friction of each step. This helps prevent the bunionette becoming irritated.

Toe separators

Wearing toe separators or bunion spacers while sleeping may help halt the progression of a bunion or bunionette over time.


Surgery for a tailor’s bunion is relatively straightforward. It will usually not require a stay in the hospital, and most people leave immediately after treatment. However, the type of surgery needed varies from person-to-person. Some surgeries involve simply shaving down the bunion to reduce the pressure a person feels on their foot.

What is the recovery time?

Person with medical bot on foot after surgery, with crutches near hospital bed.
Recovery time will be based on the treatment, for example if surgery is required.

If surgery is necessary, recovery time can vary. Most people will need to wear some form of footwear, such as a boot or splint, to protect the foot in its early stages of recovery.

A person will also need to keep extra weight off their foot and may be assigned crutches or a walker depending on their activity levels.

Recovering from surgery will often require a person to stay home from work, especially if they spend time on their feet.

It is also essential to follow any specific instructions given by a doctor. A doctor will remove the stitches a few weeks after treatment, but the swelling in the foot may not go down completely for months. During this time, doctors may advise the person to visit a physical therapist or recommend specific foot and ankle exercises to help strengthen the muscles in the area.

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Many people find they can manage the symptoms of a tailor’s bunion using home remedies or over-the-counter medical treatments. Surgery can often treat the bunion and completely alleviate symptoms in people who do not find relief using other treatments.

Recovering from surgery takes time, and a person will have to slow down during the recovery stages. This can include taking time off of work and getting lots of rest. Avoiding problematic shoes and training the feet to walk correctly may help keep symptoms from coming back.

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