If you are suffering from bunions and are reading about bunion splints for the first time, I want you to get excited.
“Why?” you ask.
Because, I know that you have been enduring miserable bouts of pain and irritability. And I know that you are pretty frustrated with the ongoing nature of your condition.
Well, a bunion splint might very well change your life…literally.
Bunion Splints Can Prevent the Need for Bunion Surgery
If you are like many other bunion sufferers, you might frustratingly think that the only option for true, lasting pain relief is to undergo bunion removal surgery.
This is an incorrect assumption.
Tens of thousands of people are avoiding bunionectomies by using bunion splints that are sold over the counter or online. And you might be one of the lucky ones who can benefit, too.
Bunions are caused by Biomechanical Flaws
Before we get into a lengthy examination of bunion splints I want to quickly revisit the actual mechanics of a bunion so that you will better understand how the splints work.
Each time you take a step your foot lands heel first and then pushes off with your toes and the ball of your foot. When the heel makes contact with the ground, your arch will flatten out. This motion places tension on the tendon in the mid-foot and allows the big toe to bend upward (even though it obviously is lying flat against the ground) so that you can be propelled forward in your walking motion.
Bunions result when there are flaws in this biomechanical motion. For a variety of different reasons, the big toe will cease to move up and down and instead forces will compel it to bend and angle in towards the second toe. With the daily repetition and exertion of pressure on this faulty joint, the angle of the toe will become more pronounced and along with it the unsightly and bulging lump will appear on the outer side of the big toe.
A bunion splint, at least the higher end ones, are designed to correct this biomechanical flaw. Or at the very least, counteract the pressure and encourage the toe to straighten out. Unfortunately, some individuals who wait too long to act will not be able to benefit fully from a bunion splint for the following reason.
Over time and if left untreated, the pressure on the toe joint causes a foot/toe deformity due to thickening of the bone. This is why it is very important to take proactive measures when it comes to your foot health.
How the Bunion Splint Works
Bunion splints work much in the same way as Breathe Right strips are used to open up nasal passages so people can sleep and how nail braces are deployed to cure ingrown toenails. If you are not familiar with these products, they essentially use pressure to pull nostrils open or to pull the outer edges of curved nails up so that they flatten out and no longer grow into the sensitive nail bed.
In ultra-simplistic terms, the bunion splint uses a similar application of pressure against the inner side of the big toe so as to reposition it over time – kind of like braces to fix crooked teeth. With continued use, though not necessarily all day or even permanently, the big toe will progressively become straighter.
As the big toe is pushed back into the place, the unsightly bump that is your bunion should correspondingly retract and result in a foot that shrinks in width. As your foot size returns to more proportional ratios and pressure is taken off the bunion, individuals report considerable decreases in pain.
Some bunion splints will merely address the toe. However, for comprehensive repair of the foot and toe joint, you will want to purchase a splint that also take into account the arches in your foot. Wait, did I say “arches”? As in, more than one?
Yep. I did. Your foot technically has two arches. You obviously know of the big arch but there is also a slight arch that runs the width of your foot…not just the length. You will want a splint that provides arch support in addition to the standard pressure it places on the toe muscles and tendon that allows the big toe to move up and down.
Types of Bunion Splints
There are two major types of bunion splints you can purchase online. You can also get custom molded splints by visiting a doctor. For the most effective home treatment regimen, you will most likely want to purchase at least two splints (as you will see why below):
- Rigid bunion splints
- Soft bunion splints
Rigid splints are not flexible and not designed to bear your weight. As such, you cannot walk or use them during the course of your daily activities. They are primarily designed to be worn at night while sleeping, but they can also be worn while awake and during times of rest.
Soft bunion splints are usually made out of some sort of fabric and constructed in such a way as to allow individuals to walk in them. Therefore, their major advantage is that you can wear them on a daily basis.
Generally speaking, the soft splints designed for daily wear are not really meant to be corrective in nature. They are designed to reduce the pain of the bunion and increase daily comfort. The rigid splints for night-time use are designed to treat the actual bunion.
Darco TAS™ Toe Alignment Splint
The Darco TAS Toe Alignment Splint is commonly prescribed to patients who have undergone bunion surgery due to the fact that it soft and flexible with straps that will not irritate the skin. The low-profile metatarsal band and t-strap design gently guides toe(s) into proper alignment for effective healing. Additionally, it is designed to be worn on your feet while wearing shoes.
The other selling point of this splint is that it is very versatile. It can be used to treat surgeries for bunionettes and hammer toes.
The Darco splint is a one size fits all device that is also latex free.
Reviews for the Darco TAS are extremely mixed. Though some people report success, many express complete dissatisfaction suggesting that the straps and brace move and do not stay in place.
However, the device is not very expensive and can be purchased for around $12-15 on Amazon. If you wait until after your surgery to purchase this brace from your doctor, it is likely that you will pay more than double for it.
Recommendation: Given the price and versatility of this brace, it is worth purchasing and trying it out to see if your results are satisfactory. If you are considering purchasing this brace for post-operative recovery, I would encourage you to buy it before the bunionectomy not only due to cost savings, but to try it out and see if it works. You do not want to be in a situation recovering from surgery and having to wait several days for a new splint to be shipped to you.
FootSmart® Bunion Regulator
The FootSmart Bunion Regulator is a rigid, nighttime splint with a rather unique design. Unlike other braces that wrap around the heel and use the anchor as a heel with which to generate the corrective pressure against the big toe, this design angles straps underneath the arches of your feet to generate the leverage needed to manipulate the plastic brace the surrounds the big toe.
The hook and loop design is complimented by a soft foam lining to increase comfort. While you are sleeping the device gently stretches your tendon and toe muscles to reverse the development of the bunion.
Reviews are very favorable with many individuals stating that the product relieved pain quickly and reversed their worsening bunion situation. The only major drawback was some discomfort and adjustment to the rigidity of the design. As stated earlier in this article, rigid splint devices are designed to be corrective in nature and in order for correction to occur, some discomforting pressure must be applied. Moreover, some users cited discomfort with the plastic bracing that surrounds the big toe and rubbing against their second toe.
Recommendations: The FootSmart Bunion Regulator is a highly respected and reputable brace that can be purchased at a very reasonable price ($15-20). Just be aware of the fact that there will be an adjustment phase for the first day or so as you break in the device.
Caution: The manufacturer suggests that those with diabetes and poor circulation consult with a doctor before purchasing.
PediFix® Nighttime Bunion Regulator™
The PediFix Nighttime Bunion Regulator is nearly identical to the FootSmart Bunion Regulator in terms of design and price and inability to be used while walking. It also provides immediate relief for bunion sufferers.
Reviews of the PediFix are very favorable. Though this splint is considerably “less attractive” than the FootSmart offering it is made out of sturdier plastic. Unfortunately, it only adjusts in one place whereas the FootSmart version is more versatile. One note of caution. Some reviewers suggested that the plastic design placed significant pressure against the side of their big toe in such a manner as to cause their nail to dig into their skin and cause ingrown toenails.
Recommendation: If you like the FootSmart product then you will also like this one. It is really going to come down to a comparison of price and personal preferences. I suggest spending time reading reviews on Amazon to read personal accounts to see if their condition and experience resonates with your bunion condition.
Fabrifoam® is a composite material combining an open celled, elastomeric, non-latex foam with selected high quality and specifically engineered fabrics.
The Fabrifoam Splint is designed to stretch muscles and tendons while maintaining a lightweight composition.
Reviews and analysis of this product suggest that this splint is primarily geared toward those individuals with minor bunion issues and that the bracing is not strong enough to straighten out the big toe.
Recommendation: This product seems to offer minimal value and given its price point and narrow focus we cannot recommend it.
Bunion Aid is unlike any other product on the market because it is designed to be worn day and night to provide continuous corrective pressure. This is accomplished via a hinge construction that realigns the big toe while allowing individuals to walk and be moderately active.
Curved straps provide a custom-like feel and fit while a padded lining protects and absorbs pressure placed on the bunion.
Manufactured with premium materials to produce a thin and lightweight device it is incredibly strong and durable. And unlike other bunion splints on the market, dual strapping around the midfoot arch prevents slippage and provides inward and upward support while giving maximum relief.
Reviews of the Bunion Aid are overwhelmingly positive and it is clearly the best bunion splint on the market. It offers superior benefits and protection and has been shown to be very effective in eliminating the need to have a bunionectomy. The major drawback is the cost of this product as it will cost you anywhere from $50-70.
Alpha Orthotics Corp Mid-foot Arch Support
The Medial Mid-foot Brace has a unique dual-strapping system that is positioned along the inside of the foot. What is interesting about this brace is that it provide inward and upward support to the mid-foot region.
The side splint supports the metatarsal bones and takes pressure off of the painful bunion while wearing shoes.
Recommendation: I have no personal experience with this product and available reviews by people who have bought this product are too few to draw any reasonable conclusion or assessment. But, the product is presented here because it is manufactured by the same company that produces arguably the best bunion splint on the market.