Bunions — bony, protruding growths beside the big toe — aren't harmful to your health, but they can cause quite a lot of pain and discomfort, especially if you're often on your feet.
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Unless they're severe, bunions can often be treated without surgery, Pooja Shah, DPM, a New York City-based podiatrist and associate of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, tells LIVESTRONG.com. And at-home devices — aka bunion correctors — can be part of that treatment plan.
This type of product is marketed to help realign the position of the big toe. While it's unclear if they're actually effective in correcting the nature of a bunion, they may offer temporary pain relief while you're wearing them, notes, David Amarnek, DPM, podiatry specialist with The Foot and Ankle Center in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Here are the best bunion correctors out there, plus what to look for when you're shopping.
1. Best Overall: Caretras Bunion Corrector
Though this bunion corrector may have you feeling as if you're wearing a full-blown foot brace, the reviews speak volumes when it comes to its success at relieving stubborn bunion pain. The gentle brace helps straighten out your big toe and realign it to a healthier position with the goal of slowing the progression of your bunions.
With a minimal design, it's easy to use and comfortable whether you're wearing it underneath your shoe or while walking barefoot in your home. In terms of sizing, it's mostly one-size-fits-all. It's adjustable and accommodates both men's and women's sizes 5-11.
Customers also appreciate the 60-day money-back guarantee.
2. Best on a Budget: Alayna Bunion Relief Sleeve
Seeing as a bunion corrector is something you wear on your feet for long periods of time, it's no surprise that their shelf-life is not the greatest. While it's important to find one that lasts you longer than a week, it's also important to keep in mind that you will likely have to buy a replacement. That's why it's convenient to find an affordable corrector that won't break the bank.
This bunion sleeve has a silicone gel pad that helps cushion and support the sensitive skin around your bunion so you're more comfortable, whether you're wearing dress shoes, athletic sneakers or simply walking around the house barefoot.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $8.99
3. Best Brace or Splint: Vicorrect Orthopedic Bunion Splint
This bunion support splint helps alleviate the painful pressure and aching that often accompanies bunions. Unlike other devices, this one comes with a full kit to help slow and, in some cases, even prevent the bunion from worsening.
The kit includes two sets of bunion correctors, in-shoe support gel toe separators and a gel big toe sleeve — one for both day and nighttime wearing. The set is one-size-fits-all and accommodates shoe sizes ranging from 5-12 thanks to an adjustable strap that wraps around the heel.
You can wear this support splint underneath your shoes while you're out and about or bare-footed while you're resting at home.
4. Best Toe Separator: ZenToes Gel Toe Separators
If you're looking for a device that impedes minimally on your lifestyle but helps reduce the discomfort caused by your bunion, you may benefit from a simple toe separator.
This device wraps around your second toe and creates a gap between it and your big toe. This helps create a neutral alignment of your big toe with the rest of the bones in your foot so there's less pressure on the bony protrusion.
ZenToes has great reviews and is super simple to use — simply fit the device over your second toe and make sure the gel pad is resting against your big toe in a comfortable manner. You can wear this underneath shoes and reuse it as many times as you like.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $11.99
5. Best Shoes: Orthofeet
If you've had a bunion for some time, you know how hard it is to find the right shoe to accommodate your condition. The go-to shoe for people with bunions is Orthofeet, says Emily Splichal, DPM, New York City-based podiatrist, because they have a wide toe box, stretchable material and arch support, all features that can help alleviate or at least reduce bunion pain. Reviewers also note that they help with both arthritis and bone spurs.
But the coolest thing about Orthofeet as a company? You can test out their shoes for 60 days to see if you like them and get your money back if you don't. They also offer free shipping and returns.
6. Best Socks: Sockwell Women's Sport Ease Bunion Relief Sock
If you hate the feeling of anything being in your shoe, a bunion corrector in the form of a sock may be your best bet. This pair by Sockwell is one of the top-rated brands of bunion socks, mainly for its comfort when worn with or without shoes.
When you wear this sock, your big toe goes in a separate cushioned pocket, which helps separate it from your second toe. This not only minimizes friction, but it helps cut down on pesky pain as well. It also adds in arch support, which encourages proper alignment and is especially helpful for those with flat feet. (Psst: Check out our guide to the best shoes for flat feet.)
The sizing is fairly simple — a small/medium fits women's shoe sizes 4 to 7.5 and a medium/large fits women's sizes 8 to 11.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.99
7. Best Inserts: Powerstep Original Arch Support Insoles
Although these shoe inserts are designed for people with another foot condition known as plantar fasciitis, they can also help alleviate the pain of bunions, thanks to the built-in arch support and dual-layer cushioning.
Unlike many insoles, they don't add any pressure to the sides of your foot. This is especially useful for people with bunions who already purchase shoes in a wide version to accommodate their bony growth.
They're also made with an antimicrobial that not only prevents odor caused by perspiration but also helps reduce heat and friction — two factors that can contribute to discomfort.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $26.95
What to Look for in a Bunion Corrector
As you shop for the right bunion corrector to give your foot the relief it needs, here are some important factors to keep in mind:
There are many different types of bunion correctors out there, ranging from soft devices to more rigid splints, and some devices meant to be worn only at night, so choosing which one is best for you can feel a bit overwhelming.
According to the doctors we interviewed, however, the type isn't as important as the comfort level you feel when you wear the bunion corrector. If it eases pain, it shouldn't matter whether the device sits between your big and second toes or only wraps around the big toe.
2. Ease of Use
Ease of use is perhaps the most important feature to consider when shopping for a bunion corrector because if you're having trouble putting it on, you're less likely to wear it and benefit from the relief it provides.
Most bunion correctors are relatively priced the same — somewhere between $15 and $30. According to Dr. Shah, there's no reason to spend any more than that for the type of device you are purchasing. The best thing you can do to make sure you're getting your money's worth, she notes, is to read customer reviews.
Unfortunately, most bunion correctors are not long-lasting, notes Dr. Amarnek. And this is usually not a problem, seeing as they are not priced that high.
Still, you don't want to have to purchase a new bunion corrector every week, so it's important to look for one that's made to last at least for a month's time, meaning they are anti-microbial to prevent odor-causing bacteria from building up and are made of thick material that won't easily bend or break altogether.
5. Ease of Cleaning
Most bunion correctors require minimal cleaning, which is important for durability. The best way to clean them is by hand-washing them with dish or laundry detergent in your sink and letting them air dry, notes Dr. Shah.
6. Arch Support
Arch support is important whenever you're talking about the health of your foot. And this is especially true for those with flat feet, as this foot type is most prone to bunions, according to Dr. Amarnek. "Arch support may help prevent or slow the progression of a bunion deformity, especially when use begins early in the process," he says.
What to Know Before You Buy
It's important to acknowledge that, while bunion correctors can help alleviate the pain and pressure associated with bunions, they are not made to treat or prevent them, notes Dr. Amarnek. For this reason, he also recommends wearing shoes with a wider toe box to accommodate the deformity, as this avoids over-crowding that can lead to further discomfort.
If you're still experiencing pain or discomfort associated with your bunion, or you have trouble wearing certain shoes, Dr. Armanek recommends seeing a podiatrist. "Bunions tend to run in families, and the earlier a patient is evaluated and treated, the better," he says.