What Is the Pinky Toe for?

Updated November 21, 2016

The pinky toe or your little toe has a purpose: It affects your ability to balance. When you are walking, running or step onto an uneven surface, your foot deals with this by changing its orientation and its shape. All of your toes play a role in maintaining your balance, even though the pinky toe does not play the most important role. The little toe is not as critical as your other toes. You could get along without it, although you would have to adapt to the new configuration of your foot.

The Fifth Toe

Because of its location on the foot, the pinky toe is closest to the outside of your foot. Sometimes referred to as the fifth toe, the fat and skin that wrap the pinky toe consist of blood vessels, a closely packed complex of nerves and tendons, all of which enable the toe to do what it needs to do, including extend, flex, abduct and adduct. The nerves that attach to this toe send messages to the brain in reaction to a stimulus.


The pinky toe is part of the evolutionary process, notes Thomas M. Greiner, an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. Every animal that has toes was created on the five-toe model. Some creatures don't have five toes, but from an evolutionary point of view, it wasn't to their benefit to have five toes.

Eventually Will Vanish?

Some people believe that the pinky toe will continue to shorten and eventually vanish because it is not that essential, like it once was when the pinky toe was needed by apes for clinging to, and grasping, branches. On the other hand, geneticist Dr. Barry Starr of Stanford University said he doesn't think the pinky toe or pinky finger, which some consider equally useless, will ever disappear just because we don't need them. We have these small digits because our DNA tells our bodies to make five toes and five fingers. Your children's pinkies and their children's pinkies aren't going to be shorter just because you didn't use yours that much.


Your pinky toe is on the side of the foot and it operates autonomously from your other toes. It has its own tendon that comes from the abductor digiti minimi muscles and from the flexor digiti minimi brevis.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.