Bunions are bony bumps that form on the side of your foot at the base of your big toe. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says that bunions develop over time when your big toe tilts toward your other toes due to repetitive stress.
Bunions are very common and become more prevalent with age. According to a 2020 research review done in America, about 23 percent of adults have them, and more than 80 percent of people seeking medical treatment for bunions are 45 or older.
Surgery is the only proven option for getting rid of bunions, but it’s usually only performed when your bunions are causing you severe discomfort at rest or when walking.
Bunion correctors are noninvasive treatment options that straighten your big toe. Some people find they help reduce pain, but research is still largely inconclusive.
Do bunion correctors really work?
Research suggests that bunion correctors aren’t effective at realigning your big toe or at getting rid of bunions. But they may help provide some temporary pain relief, while you wear them.
The few studies examining the potential benefit of bunion correctors for reducing pain suggest they’re unlikely to have a big effect or cause long-term results.
In a small 2020 study, a group of 70 people with bunions were treated with a toe splint or received no treatment. There was no difference in big toe alignment between the two groups. However, the researchers found people in the splint group reported significantly less pain during walking, running, and at rest.
In an older, small 2008 study, researchers compared the effect of wearing toe separating insoles versus a night splint in a group of 30 women between the ages of 19 to 45 with bunions. Women in the toe separator group experienced pain reduction, but the women given night splints didn’t. Neither group had a significant change in big toe angle.
It’s plausible that bunion correctors may slow down the progression of bunions, but more research is needed to understand their effect.
How do bunion correctors work?
When a bone or joint is repeatedly stressed, your body compensates by producing more bone in that area. When your big toe turns inward, more stress is applied to the inner side of your foot. Over time, this leads to the formation of a bunion.
Bunion correctors are designed to straighten your big toe and return it to its natural position. They vary in design, but often fit over part of your foot like a sleeve and have a spacer that fits between your big toe and second toe.
Other bunion correctors are splints that keep your toe straight by supporting it from the side. Splints generally don’t fit in your shoes and are designed for overnight wear.
The strategy behind bunion correctors is that forcing your toe back into its natural position will help it stay there even in the absence of the corrector, similar to how braces help shift your teeth over time.