When your feet aren't comfortable, your entire body suffers. And, if you have a condition called hammertoes, you may be constantly dealing with pain and discomfort that makes it difficult to wear your favorite pair of shoes. The best toe separators for hammertoes can help — they'll stretch your toes, loosen tightness, relieve pain, and make everyday living a lot more comfortable.
“A hammertoe is a contracture of one or both joints of the toes, causing a curling or ‘hammered’ appearance,” says Dr. Jackie Sutera, a podiatrist and spokesperson for Vionic Innovation Lab. “There are flexible hammertoes, which are usually less painful and unsightly, and rigid hammertoes, which are stiff, painful and more severe. There are usually painful, red, swollen corns on top of the joints. Hammertoes are progressive and tend to become worse over time.”
Hammertoes can occur from poor-fitting shoes (and overuse of high heels), injury, and is hereditary in some cases. “People with bunions, very flat or high arch feet are also susceptible to hammertoes because in these cases there is usually an associated muscle and tendon imbalance causing the resulting deformity," Sutera says.
The only actual cure for hammertoes is a surgical procedure called an arthroplasty, which has a three-week recovery, but there are plenty of non-invasive treatments that help: physical therapy, wearing comfortable, softer shoes, oral anti-inflammatories, and toe separators.
“Toe separators are effective in keeping the tendons and ligaments around toe joints loose and more limber,” Sutera says. “As hammertoes progress, the toes become stiff. Wearing separators over time can encourage stretching and loosening, reducing the tightening which leads to the toe becoming permanently rigid.”
Sutera recommends looking for a pair of toe separators that are flexible, comfortable and soft (all of the options on our list meet that requirement).
“People with hammertoes can wear toe separators at their desk during the day, at night while unwinding at home, or even to bed,” Sutera says. “Wearing them for even 20 minutes at a time can help. Doing toe grip exercises, such as picking up objects with toes can help strengthen the toe muscles.”
These five toe separators for hammertoes stand up to Sutera's requirements but each offers unique features depending on your needs.
1. The Best For Stretching: The Cult-Favorite Gel Separators That Are Like Yoga For Your Toes
Yoga Toes are arguably the most popular gel toe separators on the market, and for good reason. They are made from BPA-free, 100 percent medical-grade gel and ladder-like structure stretches all your toes simultaneously. They come in two sizes, an extra small option that can accommodate women's shoe sizes 7 and under, and another option for sizes 7.5 to 11. It is suggested that you wear these for 10 to 15 minutes at first, before building up to an hour. Hundreds of reviewers say these can straighten and realign your toes in a matter of weeks.
2. The Best Budget Option: A Set That Comes With Stretchers And A Set For Aligning
Not only are Dr JK's toe separators cheaper than Yoga Toes, they're also not as bulky which could be a pro or a con depending on how intense of a stretch you need. This set comes with two pairs, one pair of gel separators to stretch toes and reduce joint strain and another pair of toe separators designed to be worn to keep toes in an aligned position. According to most Amazon reviewers, these are best for women's shoe sizes 7 to 11, while reviewers with both larger and smaller sizes gave the separators mixed reviews.
3. The Best Option To Wear With Shoes: A Four-Piece Set Of Individual Toe Separators For Custom Comforts
These individual toe separators give you the freedom to choose where you place them and where you go while they're on your feet. Unlike some toe separators, these fit easily under socks and shoes and can be worn throughout the day. They're made from a latex-free medical-grade gel, each set comes with four pieces, and each piece fits most toes.
4. The Best Option To Prevent Rubbing Caused By Hammertoes: A Set Of 10 Toe Sleeves
Unlike the other options on this list, these individual toe sleeves are not correctors, but instead they slide right over each toe to prevent the type of irritation between toes that is caused by hammertoe. They're made from a soft medical-grade gel and can be cut and adjusted to fit the size of your toes. Wear them under shoes, while relaxing at home, or while sleeping — they're so lightweight you'll forget you're wearing anything.
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