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Choosing the best method to treat little toe pain depends on the cause of the pain. Causes include improperly fitting shoes, corns, and bunions. The main ways to treat little toe pain include changing footwear, thinning areas of thick skin, pain-relieving medications, immobilization, and surgery.
One of the best ways to treat little toe pain is to change footwear and make sure shoes and socks fit properly and are comfortable. Many conditions that lead to toe pain arise from friction against the toe from shoes that are too tight and squeeze the toes together or are too loose and allow the toe to rub on the material. In some cases, patients may need to buy special shoes in wide widths or with other modifications. Going barefoot around the house or wearing open sandals whenever possible can help treat little toe pain.
Corns and calluses can often be treated with chemicals that dissolve the thick skin that causes these conditions. Salicylic acid is the most common chemical used to treat little toe pain from calluses and corns, and it is often found in liquid form and on medicated pads that stick to the toe. Thinning the skin can reduce irritation, which leads to less pain. Sometimes the skin needs to be trimmed away manually, which is usually done by a podiatrist or dermatologist.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can help treat mild to moderate little toe pain. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen both help reduce pain, and ibuprofen also decreases swelling. Soaking the affected foot in warm water or water with Epsom salt can also help temporarily reduce pain.
Immobilizing the toe is a common option to treat little toe pain from a broken or injured toe. This is usually done by taping the little toe to the toes next to it to prevent it from moving. A special shoe with a stiff bottom may be worn to prevent the toe from bending.
Surgery to remove bunions, calluses, and corns or correct toe deformities is sometimes necessary. Basic in-office surgical procedures to remove small corns and calluses usually only require a topical anesthetic, and the toes heal quickly. Other surgeries involve opening the toe to access the bone to correct problems. These methods usually involve smoothing the bone under a bunion to relieve pressure or correcting minor bone deformities that lead to increased friction, pressure, and pain.
Persistent little toe pain should always be evaluated by a doctor. This is especially important for patients with diabetes and those who have decreased sensitivity in their toes. Toe conditions are not usually serious, but they can become infected or get worse if left untreated.