Do bunion correctors and protectors really work?
The lumpy bone sticking out of your big toe can sometimes make people wonder why your feet look the way they do, especially if your big toe starts overlapping your other toes.
Hallux valgus, commonly called a bunion, is a deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. It may seem unpleasant, but more importantly, it can be uncomfortable and downright painful.
Although the exact cause of bunions has not been discovered, fortunately there are several treatments. From low-cost and simple options to expensive procedures often reserved for more severe cases.
For now, we're going to focus on one of the most popular and least expensive options - bunion braces, also known as bunion splints, separators, and in some cases, bunion protection device.
What does a bunion corrector/separator do?
Anyone without foot conditions associated with hammer toes, bunions, and overlapping toes most likely haven't encountered these types of sleeves before. Before you know it, they are very unusual products.
They can come in the form of gel or fabric sleeves that slide over your big toe or all of your toes, and some are designed to wrap your entire foot while separating the big toe. Forming a different design, the bunion splint will also have a straight rigid rod, which may or may not have hinges to provide flexibility.
Regardless of their design, they are designed to do one thing - prevent the big toes from touching the other toes by keeping them separated.
So why are you doing this?
The symptoms of a bunion -- aches and pains, swollen and sore skin, corns and calluses, etc. -- only get worse when the big toe rubs against the adjacent toes.
As this happens more and more often, this over-contact forces the big toe to point more inward and the attached foot bone to stick out. This causes the above symptoms to be amplified.
Now you can see how the bunion brace/separator helps keep the big toe separated.
How about a bunion protector?
Most bunion braces and separators can also be classified as bunion protectors, but bunion protectors are not necessarily bunion braces or separators. Take the bunion pad as an example; it is only there to protect the bunion, but not to separate it.
A bunion protector is simply a product that protects the bunion from friction inside the shoe. By protecting the bunion, inflammation and pain will be minimized.
How effective are they?
The effectiveness of bunion braces depends largely on the severity of the bunion.
For most people who don't need surgery, they work well for pain relief and reducing swelling, corns, and calluses.
They also slow down changes in the shape of the foot caused by the bone joints being pushed out. What used to be a comfy shoe is now tight, confining and painful. This condition can be easily avoided by wearing a pair of gel bunion braces instead of bunion splints, as the gel construction can be worn with the footwear.
Perhaps the term "bunion corrector" is a bit misleading, as they don't actually correct the bunion, but prevent it from getting worse.
The only way to truly correct a bunion is surgery. In most cases, this is a last resort for people with extreme pain and severe deformity. Even after surgery, there is still no guarantee that the bunion will go away with all symptoms.
Thankfully, many people who get bunions treated before they get worse don't make it to the point of surgery. It's certainly a wise decision to follow suit and wear some form of bunion brace to stop the bunion from getting worse.
Types of Bunion Braces and Separators
When you're looking for bunion braces, you'll come across a variety of different designs made from different materials.
Let's take a look at some of the main types:
These types of bunion braces are made of gel silicone and are very flexible as they stretch to fit different sized feet.
They're a popular choice because their slim profile allows them to be worn under socks and shoes, while their stickiness reduces slippage. Still, some users have found that they can irritate the skin and cause sweaty feet.
As an alternative to all-gel construction, fabric-type bunion protectors—some of which have integrated gel pads in the fabric—are favored by some users for their comfort.
The downside is that many of the styles are large and bulky, difficult to match with socks and shoes, and the number of styles is limited; most fabric models are just protectors rather than correctors/separators.
When people talk about bunion braces and straighteners, they usually mean a bunion splint, a device that consists of rigid plastic parts that are attached to the bunion and wrapped around the foot with fabric and Velcro .
Some bunion splints have a hinge so the big toe can flex naturally as you walk, while others are immobile, which limits its use when you are lying in bed or sitting.
Bunion splints should only be used at home, not other forms of bunion products, and can be worn with footwear.
Bunion pads are the least visible and cheapest form of bunion protector. They have a soft felt surface and an adhesive backing that allows the pads to stick directly to the bunion. This usually means you can only use the pad once and then throw it away. Alternatively, it can be glued to the inside of the shoe so that it can be used no matter how long it lasts, although this method can be awkward.
Bunion pads come in different shapes, including round, oval, semi-circular, and plus, all of which come in different sizes and thicknesses.
The most commonly used bunion pads are round or oval pads with a cut in the middle. The pad surrounds the bunion, so it prevents friction without having to stick the pad directly on top of the bunion.
Bunion exercise belt
A bunion exercise band is different from all other types of bunion correctors and protectors because you don't actually wear it. It is only occasionally used to stretch and strengthen the ligaments around the big toe.
When you put it on, your big toes move in opposite directions while keeping your heels in the same place. This exercise is quick and easy to perform, and most people can do it.
Which bunion corrector works best?
There really is no clear answer to this question, as the answer depends a lot on the severity of the user's condition. While we have clarified that bunion braces do not actually correct bunions, but only reduce their symptoms, it must be said that proper bunion care is also important. This means wearing the right type of shoes for the bunion and doing the right type of bunion exercise.
That being said, the most commonly used types of bunion braces are made of gel or fabric, as they can be worn anytime, anywhere, whether you're going to work, staying indoors, or sleeping.
They provide a more consistent solution that minimizes friction and prevents overlapping of the big toe.
While bunion splints are also widely used, they are often less effective because they can only be used irregularly and are uncomfortable to use.
Some people use more than one type of bunion corrector at different times of the day. For example, use a gel type when you are out during the day and a bunion splint at home at night. Most products are relatively inexpensive, so you can try several different bunion correctors to see which one works best for you.