In this article, we’re focussing on blisters on the outside of the little toe. Oh the pain, when you have to keep walking – is there anything worse? If a blistered little toe is a common occurrence for you, it’s time to stop putting up with it. Let’s start by having a good look at the shape of your toe, then your shoes. A pinky toe blister can occur in shoes that are too tight, too narrow, too loose or too rigid. But it doesn’t stop there. There are some great preventions like cushions and patches for even the worse recurring pinky toe blisters. But first, read this article if your pinky toe blister is under or between your toes.

In this article, we’ll cover what I know to be the best pinky toe blister prevention strategies for those blisters on the outside of your little toe. They are:

  • Shoe fit
  • Taping
  • Gel toe protectors for small toes
  • ENGO Blister Patches for pinky toe blisters
  • Surgery

Fun fact: Pinky toe blisters are THE most common blister location on the whole foot!

 

What Can Cause a Pinky Toe Blister?

The dominant cause of outside pinky toe blisters is a curly 5th toe. In fact, we have a name for these toes – adductovarus. Have a look at your little finger – hold it out straight. Next, 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 joint sticking right out. Imagine having to wear a shoe on your hand! That joint is going to cop it! Above all, 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 – ouch!).

 

curly pinky toe is commonly blistered

A curly pinky toe (adductovarus) is commonly blistered

 

How To Treat and Prevent Blisters On Your Pinky Toe

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I’d have a yacht by now!

My pinky toe hurts when my shoe presses 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.

Toebox

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 if your toebox is too narrow, here’s what you can do. First, stand barefoot on a piece of paper. Then trace around your foot, so you have an outline of your foot on the paper. Finally, pull the insole out of your shoe and put it on your tracing. Does your insole cover up all the pen marks? If you can see pen, this is where your shoe is too narrow. Get wider shoes.

Heel Position

Your heel simply must be sitting right to the back of your shoe, at all times. This is where it’s meant to be. If your shoes are too big or too loose, it allows your foot to slide forward. In other words, your toes are jamming into a narrower part of the shoe. To prevent this, tie your laces firmly to keep your heel all the way back (see video below). Most importantly, wear shoes with some type of “fastening”. For example, laces, buckles or velcro. Then tighten them to keep your foot in the right position. Elastic can help initially, but as it degrades, it becomes less effective.

Upper Flexibility

Obviously, shoes with a more flexible upper in the region of the little toe will help. If you can make a change, do. But if you can’t, all is not lost. I’ll show you how to cushion your toe regardless (coming up).

Seams

Watch for seams in the shoe’s upper, right where the little toe is. They are common and will make the situation worse. It’s difficult to stretch a shoe where there is a seam, because you risk breaking the thread. It’s best to avoid them altogether.

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 three more things you can try – to address the pressure, friction and shear that contribute to blisters.

 

2) Pre-Taping

A simple protective layer in the form of tape (I’ve used Fixomull Stretch in the video below), moleskin or an island dressing (eg: Bandaid) might be all you need to help prevent and relieve pinky toe pain, blistering and swelling. However, it won’t be enough for everyone on every occasion. It’s worth a try though. If that’s not enough, you can get a lot better cushioning with our next strategy, gel toe protectors.

 

 

3) Gel Toe Protectors (Sleeves and Caps)

Gel toe protectors are great for pinky toe blisters two reasons:

  • They cushion the prominent joints, therefore reduce pressure on the joint.
  • The gel material is excellent at absorbing shear. Shear forces cause blisters. So, the more shear occuring within the gel material itself, the less shear occurring 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 – in other words, the ultimate in toe cushioning and protection. 

 
 
 
 
The gel material of gel toe sleeves and gel toe caps is excellent at absorbing the forces that cause blisters. You simply cannot get better. Watch me demonstrate in this video a little-used technique that:
  • Firstly, prevents the protector from bunching up between your toes; and
  • Secondly, stops it from slipping off.

A word of caution with gel toe protectors – only use them on intact and unblistered skin. They are a blister PREVENTION, not treatment. If your skin is weakened and weepy, the skin will become soggy and macerated. 

 

4) ENGO Blister Patch

An ENGO Patch is a great way to cover any rough seams on the internal lining of your shoe. It’s also the best way there is to reduce friction levels. Consider an ENGO Blister Patch when (this is important):

  • You don’t think your little toe is curly but you’re still getting blisters.
  • You don’t have enough room in your shoe for a gel toe protector.
  • 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. For tips on how to apply ENGO Patches to your shoes, read this how-to guide or watch this video of me applying ENGO Patches to all areas of the shoe.

 

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.

Check out the range of ENGO Blister Patches in our store. The ENGO 6-Pack is ideal for toe blisters. Use either the large or small ovals from this pack, depending on the size of the coverage you need.

 

 

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.

 

Dislocation

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. Dislocating your pinky toe mean you’ve stretched or maybe snapped the ligaments that are 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.

 

Wrapping Up

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.

Our Pick

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Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

About The Author

Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

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

USD $21.99blisterpod gel toe sleeves

Gel Toe Sleeves

Gel Toe Sleeves by BlisterPod provide double-thickness cushioning to relieve painful corns, callus, rubbing, irritation & prevents blisters.

VIEW PRODUCT

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6 Comments

  1. John Flannery 2 July 2015 at 11:00 am - Reply

    I had this problem recently on the second day of a 60k plus training hike with both little toes. This first time experiencd led me to do some serious research about blisters with no better reference than your analysis and recommendations Rebecca (so thanks). Armed with your information I analysed my own situation. The initial trigger was the freezing creek cossing on sand in the dark. We removed shoes & socks for the crossing and shivering dryed our feet as best as posdible and removed all the sand before donning our boots. I believe I didn’t tie my laces sufficiently to keep my feet firm (in my well used boots) as I now recall some foot shift on the descents (the sheering had started). The next day, a different direction but compounding of the damage commenced the previous day saw bliss ascending and pain descending. To truncate the story my preventative solutions now include – a better lacing technique using a lower half surgeons knot and and upper half heel lock, dual socks (merino sock liner & bamboo blend sock) and blister prevention patches in the little toe area. Some 220 training km’s later (after the antibiotics for an infected toe!) and being more attentative I have had no issues whatsoever. Thanks again Rebecca for the detailed research and analysis. Cheers John Flannery

  2. Rebecca Rushton 2 July 2015 at 11:58 am - Reply

    That’s wonderful to hear John. There’s nothing I like to see more than someone troubleshooting their blisters in an informed way. And nothing I like to do more than help people get there. Keep up the great work John!

  3. Amy in California 21 July 2015 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Hi Rebecca:Thanks so much for this article. I stumbled across it after developing a painful blister on my little (fifth) toe, which I now understand has a tendency to park itself halfway underneath its neighbor. Normally it’s just got a small callus, but put on some hiking shoes and a backpack, and it doesn’t take long to get really bad. Anyway, do have toe socks (they tend to slow but not prevent blisters for me), and I just ordered an Engo variety pack, so I’ll try the toe sock/Engo combo (along with using the Engo in some other blister-prone spots). However, the photo gave me another idea. Have you ever tried Engo with foam toe sleeve (as opposed to the silicone ones)? Here’s an example: http://www.myfootshop.com/tubular-foam-toe-bandages? . I like the foam sleeves for prevention for a number of reasons — they’re less bulky than the silicone ones, so they don’t get as hot (and then sweaty), and they interfere less with biomechanics. I’m thinking about taping the Engo around them in the same way you’ve done in the toe sock photo. They might be usable for two or three days. This leads me to the question: Is the blue side of the Engo OK to put against the skin? (I understand about not using the adhesive side against the skin). I could always use five toe sleeves and put Engo on every other one, but using just two or three might be simpler. Thanks for any feedback, and thanks for the very informative website.

  4. Dylan Tribbett 22 June 2016 at 6:33 am - Reply

    I’ve been wearing the same shoes for 4-5 month and I’ve experienced no problems but all of a sudden I’m getting blisters. Can shoes shrink from bing wet because I know my feet arent’ growing

  5. Rebecca Rushton 22 June 2016 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Conceivably, the upper material and stitching of your shoe could contract or distort with waterlogging, Dylan. And maybe become a bit stiffer when they dry out. But considering shoes are our contact with the ground, shoe manufacturers (at least of quality outdoor and athletic footwear) would use materials where this is least likely.

  6. K 8 September 2016 at 6:15 am - Reply

    The graphic you’re using is actually from a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. Please update your source. It’s a great blog and deserves the credit.
    Here’s the post: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/02/boyfriend-doesnt-have-ebola-probably.html

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