Whether you were born with overlapping toes, have bunions or developed foot issues like plantar fasciitis, there are ways to safely and effectively treat these conditions and ease pain or discomfort.
According to Dr. Gary Evans, a podiatrist and board-certified foot surgeon, finding the right product can make all the difference. It’s important to look for something that “can minimize pressure from shoes and other toes, as well as improve function,” he told HuffPost.
He explained that if a toe is flexible enough, it can be temporarily realigned with the use of certain kinds of toe stretchers and separators, which can in turn help alleviate pain, swelling and inflammation. These stretchers and separators can help provide overall foot comfort by reducing pressure on the joints while helping to stretch muscles and tendons, further easing discomfort.
He did, however, mention that “none of these products can reverse a structural change in the toes or joints. Surgery is usually the best option to change the structure of a hammertoe or bunion.” Following surgery, items like spacers, separators and stretchers can also be used to maintain the newly corrected position and alignment.
When picking out items that are best for you, take into account the design and materials, Evans said. Rigid splints and separators are designed for night use and are not meant to be used while walking, while gel and other soft materials can be used in regular shoes and sneakers as you go about your day.
He also pointed out that understanding your overall goal will help determine which item to choose, and that you should consult with your podiatrist to determine what type of product is best for your individual needs — especially if you have diabetes or other circulatory or nerve disorders. He recommended starting off slowly, using a separator or spacer only for short periods of time to begin with. As you start to feel more comfortable with the device, you can start to use it for longer stretches of time.
Below, we’ve curated a list of highly-rated toe stretchers, splints and separators based on Evans’ advice. They can help to ease pain and discomfort without having to invest in expensive therapies. Use them before and after surgeries or just to provide a bit of extra relief at the end of the day.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change. The experts we consulted for this story do not necessarily endorse the products ahead unless otherwise noted.
Dr. Frederick's bunion pad and spacer kit
This 14-piece kit includes shields, separators and spacers specially designed to provide extra cushioning for your bunions and space for overlapping toes. They can be worn inside shoes so that you can keep going about your daily activities.Promising reviews
: "Seemed like a gimmick when I bought them, but thought I would try them anyway. Surprisingly, the spacers work wonderfully for hammertoe. The spacers really make a significant difference. I was pleasantly surprised and have been using them daily since. My feet feel much happier!" — Kelly
"Recovering from a second metatarsal osteotomy. Common to this surgery is floating toe. Wearing a sling and one of these spacers for my great toe. All to help my toe heal correctly. The two toe spacer with the side pad is perfect. I have long thin toes. These are great for me. If you have chubby toes the ones that for loops may feel too tight." — Laurie
Pedifix Budin toe splints
According to podiatrist Dr. Gary Evans, "Budin splints are products that can help keep toes straighter and flatter." These single-toe splints are geat for overlapping and crooked toes and hammertoes and can help reduce rubbing and help prevent blisters. It has a soft, dual-layer cushion for the ball of the foot and can be used interchangeably on either foot. You can also get one with two holes
. Promising Walmart review:
"This item really works. I got this same product from my Dr. and wanted another one." — Pkwteach
Promising Amazon review:
"My mom loves these. She uses them to help straighten out some errant toes and they’re comfy!" — Y. Mariscal
Mind Bodhi toe separators
Get those toes back where they belong with these popular toe separators. They are designed to give you optimal spacing between toes and can be worn with socks, wide-toed shoes or while barefoot around the house. Evans noted that most over-the-counter gel toe separators like these "can help relieve pressure and realign overlapping toes."Promising review
: "I like that these are super stretchy and easy to fit between the toes. It’s not stiff or anything. I was scared these would hurt like heck like the toe separators for doing your nails. These are not those. These are very soft and squishy, which I appreciate! I’ve been wearing them for a little over an hour while sitting for the most part, and they feel great! My toes desperately need separation. My two smaller outside toes have been feeling numb from wearing tight shoes that I accidentally slept in. Having numb toes is such a strange and annoying feeling like something is in my socks! I hope this helps! I’m going to try to buy a wider toe box type shoe with good arch support for my plantar fasciitis, and hopefully these toe thingies will help too!" — S. Monroe
ZenToe bunion gel pads
"Gel bunion splints can often reduce pressure on the bunion and help reduce pressure of the adjacent toes," Evans said. These pads from ZenToe can reduce pressure and friction on the side of the toe, easing discomfort while encouraging proper alignment. Made with soft silicone gel, it's designed to stay firmly in place and can be worn inside shoes. Each package includes four bunion shields.Promising review
: "Bought this for my husband, his bone was hurting him when wearing shoes. It gives great padding and comfort without adding bulk, so it didn't affect the tightness of his shoes. its a soft silicone so its easy to wash and air dry after use." — Kelli
YogaToes Gems toe stretcher and separator
These best-selling toe separators are made with cushy gel that cradles the feet and helps to reduce aches and pains. They're ideal for people with bunions, Hammertoes and even plantar fasciitis. It's a great way to soothe sore feet and realign toes, giving the entire area a yummy stretch.Promising review
: "Great to use nightly for hammertoes and bunions. I use 15-20 minutes at night non weight bearing to distract the soft tissue around feet and keep them pliable. This will not change bone adaptations but keep area around bones pliable and may prevent elective surgery. Also a fan of the design which prevents enclosing toes completely aiding in ease in putting them on. Nothing beats seeing a foot care specialist but as a Holistic Podiatrist I personally love these and recommend them for my patients." — Kathleen LaRose
Dr. Scholl's hydrogen bunion cushions
Get long-lasting relief from bunion discomfort with these easy-to-use hydrogel cushions from Dr. Scholl's. They can be worn with any shoe and are designed to last for multiple days at a time. Promising review
: "Very comfortable. These gel cushions are wonderful. Very thin, so they fit in shoes well. It does take some patience to open them & put them over my bunion. No do-overs, so be careful. A little practice and you can use them quickly." — Karen Bowman
A six-piece toe separator set
Made with medical-grade gel, these toe separators can be worn a variety of ways to best support your needs. They can provide pain relief associated with hammertoes, overlapping toes and bunions while gently correcting the foot's shape. They're soft and flexible and can be worn with socks or roomy shoes — you can even do them while exercising barefoot while doing yoga or pilates. Promising review
: "I would show a pic of my feet but I'll have to pass! I have bunions on both feet and have been suffering with foot issues most of my life. My left foot though, my big toe would cross with the middle one. Didn't think nothing of it, it was comfortable. I started to notice that over the years they were leaning too far. Anyhow, I got these cause I don't want to have surgery. I read and watched the videos on here to see what others have said. OMG!!!! Instant relief! Both of the baby toes are bumpin but no more pain!!! Please don't wait till you are too embarrassed to wear flip flops or get pedicured. I snatched them out the box right away. They are so soft and flexible, you can walk in them bear foot, I got my sox on and still call walk with ease. Best purchase I could have made for my health!" — Galina Podolskiy
A pair of bunion compression socks
Made with super thin and ultra-soft stretchy material, this medical sock is designed to ease bunion pain and encourage natural alignment. It features a high-quality bunion pad and a comfortable ankle strap so that it stays on snugly and can maximize its effectiveness.Promising reviews
: "Used it for my bunion which is in very early period. Its material is soft and elastic. Price is not very high." — Hafsa
"As it is told the fabric is soft and the quality looks great. it is very comfortable and effective to separate big toes." — Kindle customer