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.