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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 Australia, 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
Bunion correctors are noninvasive treatment options that straighten your big toe. Some people find they help reduce pain, but research is still largely inconclusive.
Read on to learn how bunion correctors may help you manage pain and what other treatment options may be effective.
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.
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.
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.
However, there’s no evidence that bunion correctors are effective at changing the angle of your toe or at getting rid of bunions. A limited amount of evidence suggests they might help slow down the progression of bunions and provide pain relief, but more research is needed.
Surgery is the only effective treatment for bunions that cause severe discomfort or when nonsurgical options aren’t effective. Nonsurgical treatments like physiotherapy or pain relievers may help manage symptoms of minor bunions.
A 2020 research review showed that 100 types of surgery can be used to remove bunions. Most of them involve repositioning tendons, ligaments, and the joint capsule to change the position of your big toe. The bone at the base of your big toe and the bone behind it may be cut. Surgery usually takes about
In some cases, your big toe may be fixed in places with metal plates or screws.
Other treatment options that may help you manage your symptoms include:
- Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy may help you strengthen and stretch the muscles and connective tissue in your foot.
- Pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be able to relieve pain during flare-ups.
- Changing footwear. Wearing footwear with a low heel that provides you room to move your toes may help reduce pressure on your bunion. Applying padding or tape to your bunion may also help reduce pressure.
- Orthotics. Orthotics may provide pain relief for some people, but there’s a limited amount of scientific evidence to back their use.
Bunion correctors won’t cure your bunions, but they may provide temporary pain relief while you wear them. You can find bunion correctors at many pharmacies and places that sell footwear.
The exact cause of bunions isn’t clear. People often have a family history of bunions, suggesting genetics play a role. Certain anatomical abnormalities of your foot like
Being flatfooted, having rheumatoid arthritis, or having a short calf muscle is also thought to increase your risk.
Tight shoes and high heels are often blamed for bunion development, but footwear isn’t thought to be the main cause. Some people who wear high heels or tight shoes never develop bunions, while some people who wear flat and loose shoes do.
It’s likely footwear contributes to bunion development in genetically predisposed people.
Some potential ways to lower your risk of developing bunions include:
- wearing comfortable and flat shoes
- avoiding shoes that are tight around the balls of your feet
- minimizing time wearing high heels or shoes with pointed toes
- spending more time walking barefoot
Bunion correctors are devices that straighten your big toe. They don’t cure bunions, but some people find they provide temporary pain relief. More scientific evidence is needed to learn if they can slow down bunion progression.
Surgery is the only effective treatment for severe bunions that don’t respond to nonsurgical treatments. If you think you may be a candidate, a doctor can help advise you on what type of surgery may be right for you.