Skip to content

Do Bunion Correctors and Protectors Really Work?

DuraFlex Gel Bunion Protectors

That lumpy bone sticking out from your big toe will sometimes have people wondering why your foot looks the way it does, even moreso if your big toe begins to overlap your other toes.

Hallux valgus, more commonly known as a bunion, is a deformity of the big toe’s base joint. It can look unpleasent but more importantly, it can feel discomforting and outright painful at worse. 

Despite the exact cause of a bunion has not yet been discovered, fortunately there are several forms of treatments for it; ranging from low-cost and easy options to expensive surgery which is usually reserved for more severe cases.

10 Most Effective Treatments For Bunions

For now, we’ll focus on one of the most popular and lowest cost options – the bunion corrector, also known as a bunion splint, separator and in some cases, it will also serve as a bunion protector.

What Do Bunion Correctors / Separators Do?

Anyone that doesn’t have a foot condition that relates to hammer toes, bunions and overlapping toes most likely hasn’t come across these types of sleeves before. To the unknowing, they’re quite the unusual products.

They can come in the form of a gel or fabric sleeve that slides over your big toe or all toes, with some designs wrapping around your entire foot while separating the big toe. Forming a different design, a bunion splint will also have a straight and rigid stick which may or may not have a hinge for flexibility.

No matter its design, they’re all designed to do one thing – prevent the big toe from touching the other toes by keeping them separated.

So why would you want to do that?

The symptoms of a bunion – aches and pain, swelling and sore skin, corns and calluses etc. – will only get worse if the big toe is allowed to rub against its neighbour toe.

As this happens more and more frequently, this excessive contact will force the big toe to point inwards even more and the attached foot bone to stick outwards. This results in the aforementioned symptoms being magnified.

Now you can see how the bunion corrector/separator helps in keeping the big toe separated.

What about bunion protectors?

The majority of bunion correctors and separators can also be classed as a bunion protector, but a bunion protector may not necessarily be a bunion corrector or separator. Take for example, a bunion pad; it only serves to protect the bunion but not separate it.

A bunion protector is simply a product that protects the bunion from rubbing against the inside of your footwear. By protecting the bunion, inflammation and soreness will be minimised.

How Effective Are They?

The level of effectiveness a bunion corrector has largely depends on how severe your bunion is.

For the majority of people that do not require surgery, they work well in relieving pain and reducing swelling, corns and calluses.

They also slow down changes in the shape of your foot that result from the bone joint being pushed out. What was once a pair of comfortable shoes are now tight, constraining and painful. This situation can easily be avoided by wearing a pair of gel bunion correctors as opposed to a bunion splint since a gel construction can be worn with footwear.

Perhaps the term of “bunion correctors” is slightly misleading as they do not actually correct bunions, rather prevents it from getting worse.

The only way to really correct a bunion is by surgery. In most cases, this is a last resort for people who are in great pain and have severe deformity. Even after surgery, there’s still no guarantee that the bunion will be completely gone along with all symptoms.

Thankfully, many people who treat their bunions before it gets worse do not reach the point of surgery. It’s surely a wise decision to follow suit and wear some form of a bunion corrector to stop your bunion from intensifying.

Types of Bunion Correctors and Separators

When you’re looking for a bunion corrector, you’ll come across a wide array of different designs made from different materials.

Let’s take a look at some of the main types:

Gel Bunion Correctors and Separators

Constructed from gel silicone, these types of bunion correctors are flexible as they can stretch to fit different sizes of feet.

They’re a widely popular choice as their slim profile allows them to be worn beneath socks and shoes while their sticky like qualities reduces slippage. Despite this, some users find that they can irritate the skin and cause the feet to sweat.

Gel and Fabric Bunion Corrector and Separator

Fabric Bunion Protectors

As an alternative to an all-gel construction, fabric type bunion protectors – some of which have gel pads integrated within the fabric – are prefered by some users for their comfort.

The downsides are that many models are big and bulky, making it difficult to wear with socks and shoes, and there’s also a limited amount of designs; most fabric models are only protectors rather than correctors/separators.


Bunion Splints

When people talk about bunion correctors and straighteners, they’re often referring to bunion splints, a device that is made up of rigid plastic parts held against the bunion and wrapped around the foot by fabric and velcro.

Some bunion splints have a hinge so that the big toe can bend naturally as you walk, while others are immovable which restricts its use to when you’re in bed or seated.

A bunion splint is intended to be used at home only, as opposed to other forms of bunion products which can be worn with footwear.

Bunion Splint

Bunion Pads

Bunion pads are the most unobtrusive and inexpensive form of bunion protectors. They have a soft felt surface and an adhesive backing which allows the pad to stick straight onto the bunion. This usually means that you can only use the pad once and then dispose of it after. Alternatively, it can be stuck to the inside of your footwear so that it can be used for however long it lasts, though this method can be awkward.

Bunion pads come in different shapes including circle, oval, semi-circle and plus, all of which come in varying sizes and thicknesses.

The most commonly used bunion pad is a round or oval pad with a cut out in the centre. The pad surrounds the bunion so that it prevents friction without the pad having to be stuck directly on top of the bunion.

Bunion Pad

Bunion Exercise Bands

A bunion exercise band differs from all other types of bunion correctors and protectors in the sense that you don’t actually wear it; it’s simply used occassionally to stretch and strengthen the ligaments surrounding the big toe.

When you put it on, you move your big toes in the opposite direction while keeping your heels in the same place. This exercise is quick and easy to perform, with most people being capable of doing it.

Bunion Exercise Band

Bunionette Correctors, Separators and Protectors

There are also correctors, separators and protectors for bunions on the little toe (known as a bunionette). They work exactly the same as the bunion models, but are not nearly as common, therefore the range of designs are a lot more limited.

Which Bunion Corrector Works the Best?

There’s really no definitive answer to this question as the answer largely depends on the severity of the user’s condition. While we’ve already clarified that a bunion corrector doesn’t actually correct the bunion, but only serve to reduce its symptoms, it must be said that proper care of the bunion is vital too. This means wearing the proper type of footwear for a bunion and performing the right type of bunion exercises.

With that being said, the most commonly used type of bunion correctors are ones constructed from gel or fabric since they can be worn anytime and anywhere, whether you’re going to work, staying indoors or sleeping.

They offer a more consistent solution for minimising friction and preventing the big toe from overlapping.

While bunion splints are also widely used, they’re generally less effective as they can only be used irregularly and can be uncomfortable to use.  

Some people use more than one type of bunion corrector for different times of the day. For example, a gel type during the day when they’re out and about and a bunion splint in the evening when they’re at home. Most products are relatively inexpensive so you can try a few different bunion correctors to see which one works best for you.

Previous article Effective Bunion Exercise That Strengthen’s the Big Toe


Dawn Gibson - May 15, 2024

In my experience, which is several years worth, the gel ones only serve to exacerbate the misalignment of your other toes, the ones already being pushed out of line and towards overlapping each other by the deformed big toe.
This because a) the strength of a big toes with bunion far out powers any lateral strength, in the other toes to push it back via the gel separator, and due to the limited space in the toes box of most shoes.

The fabric ones do little to nothing and the ones with the splint certainly don’t live up the the pictures in which they claim to correct bunions, at best slowing down progression, if used regularly ie most nights.

I have seen a new fabric one with an adjustable fabric strip down the outside of the big toes to create some leverage to straighten the big toes, which I think might do something in day time wear situations and plan to check this
out next.

What I would like to know from Feet & Feet if whether the inevitable pressure the splint type correct put on the bunion joint will actually make the bunion worse. I was previous told pressure on that joint is on of the causes of the bunion.

artstu039 - October 11, 2023

Thanks for sharing about big toe straightener. This is also a non- surgical way of big toe. Great Blog!!

Liz Armstrong - November 9, 2020

I ’ve seen ads for sandals recommended for women with bunions.Are these a good idea ?
They mainly have a ring of leather around the big toe and are recommended as “bunion corrector” sandals.

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields