You must be tired of dealing with a big toe bump that causes pain, discomfort, and redness on your feet every day. Remember your past life when you used to enjoy a morning walk or a new pair of shoes? All of a sudden, you get a bunion, and things are not the same.
You might feel like you have to deal with this your entire life, but there are various treatments for bunions! You might have even searched for a few and saw either surgery or over-the-counter options, such as using a bunion toe splint. If you’re looking at less invasive procedures, it can still be tricky to figure out which of the solutions are most effective for your dilemma, so sit back and read the truth about them.
Suppose you notice your big toe leaning towards another due to a growing bump on the joint at its base. You are probably experiencing a Hallux Valgus, the medical term for a bunion. It is caused by a dislocated joint in the big toe, resulting in red skin, a swollen bump, pain, and discomfort.
The common causes of developing bunions are:
- Having flat feet
- Tight footwear (although this one is more of a contributing factor than a direct cause)
Bunions are some of the most common foot deformities—1 out of 3 people past the age of 65 experience it. Additionally, women tend to experience this more than men due to weaker connective tissues and Achilles tendons, and shorter calf muscles. When worst comes to worst, bunions can even trigger the development of other conditions such as hammertoes and osteoarthritis.
Non-Surgical Bunion Treatment: Bunion Toe Splints
Some might not have enough time and budget for surgery, or maybe their condition isn’t severe enough. As a result, people seek relief from non-surgical treatments. A few studies looked into how over-the-counter remedies, such as bunion splints, work and what level of relief they provide.
A bunion splint is a device that separates your big toe from the other toes to correct its alignment. How to make a bunion splint? Well, you shouldn’t DIY one since it’s relatively affordable to buy, but most bunion splints are either made of fabric, silicone, cotton, and other related materials. They look like slippers with large open areas that expose parts of your feet and are typically used during the night.
There are two types of bunion splints: rigid and hinged. Rigid toe splints have a fixed structure, so they are worn during rest, while hinged toe splints have a movable joint so the user can move freely during activities.
Is wearing a bunion splint effective? The answer is yes, but with proper knowledge and understanding. Experts agree that a bunion toe splint is a reliable tool for pain relief and comfort. Some people find it convenient to wear at night and feel the pain subsiding the longer they use it. However, you shouldn't expect quick results as your feet still need to get used to the splint for at least a week or two.
Does a bunion splint cure bunions? No, it doesn't. Rather, experts recommend using one after surgery. This way, the splints will be more helpful in keeping the proper alignment of the toes by stretching the tendons and ligaments, particularly in the big toe and second toe.
If bunion splints are not for you, they can cause some mild disadvantages that only add to the discomfort and stress of having a bunion. Some of the most common issues are:
- Wearing the product may hurt the feet.
- Since wearing a splint compresses the feet, it can get a little sweaty and smelly when worn for long periods.
- Bunion splints are not advisable to wear with shoes.
- It doesn't accomplish toe correction.
You can avoid these issues with proper knowledge and expectations. Toe splints do their job for the purpose they're made for, but don't go beyond that. People with severe bunion and other toe deformities will not benefit much from products like these, but they can be super handy as post-surgical maintenance equipment.
You can find toe splints in health and brand awareness shops online or in marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Additionally, most orthopedic brands provide an official shop for their products, so you can find plenty of sources there if you need to get more information.
Choosing a bunion splint that suits you and your lifestyle is not easy. You have to consider some factors to avoid the inconveniences it can bring. Here are some of the things you have to take note of:
- First determine whether you need a rigid or a hinged bunion splint.
- You will have to wear the splint for several hours and most likely during rest as it doesn't fit well inside shoes.
- Bunion splints will cause a little discomfort at the beginning, requiring some stretching to adjust fully.
- Some splints come with gel padding, and some don't. Keep this in mind when selecting a product.
- There are specific sizes for each product, so make sure to get one that fits perfectly.
- Most bunion splints fall between the $9–$80 range. Investing in expensive splints might not be worth the amount of benefits they provide. However, don't go for a product just because it's super cheap as this can cause more foot issues.
One of the most confusing things for someone unfamiliar with bunion treatments is distinguishing toe sleeves, spacers, and splints. Some sources use these terms alternatively, while others provide separate information for each. As a result, it becomes harder to find what product suits your condition. Here's a quick explanation of their similarities and differences.
The most transparent difference between the three is their design. Toe sleeves are like pieces of clothing (think something similar to a small sock or turtleneck). Toe spacers come in single or multiple gel loops, and toe splints are like open footwear or medical devices.
To Wear or Not to Wear With Shoes?
Some of the devices should be worn barefoot and others during intense activities. Generally, more people are comfortable wearing toe sleeves and spacers with shoes, but splints are nearly impossible to wear inside a shoe due to their larger structure. Still, it depends on what's convenient for you.
The only similarity between toe spacers, splints, and sleeves is their function: pain relief and comfort. Unfortunately, none can correct a toe deformity; surgery is still the most effective treatment, especially for severe conditions. However, if you're looking for temporary relief in your daily activities or for a post-surgery device, then these three products will be effective.
Bunion splints are proven effective and approved by experts but backed by only a few credible studies at the moment. Nevertheless, they are worth a try—that is, if you're looking for comfort and post-surgical alignment. Consider the type of deformity, severity of deformation, and your personal preferences to ensure that you'll get the toe treatment that you need. In addition, it's important to understand the purpose of each treatment, so you don’t waste time, money, or worse, add to the already stressful and painful condition you have.