War of the bunion busters: What’s the best conservative treatment?


It's safe to say that most people like to avoid bunion surgery whenever possible, considering the various risks and high cost of the operation. After all, why go under the knife when you can slip on a conservative bunion correction device and save your money for that pair of Louboutins you've been eyeing?

But these days, choosing a method of getting rid of bony bumps is like trying to pick a shade of nail polish – there are just so many to choose from! Well, fear not, dear readers, as I've compiled a breakdown of all the bunion busters out there.

Protective pads and cushions

These come in many forms, including gel-like shields, fabric pads and those little booties that have been popping up in the news lately. These products may be very helpful in preventing the irritation that results from bunions rubbing against shoes, but they do very little when it comes to reducing the size of bunions.

The devices are soft, and it takes a rigid material to encourage straightening of the big toe joint. Expecting a pad or a bootie to get rid of a bunion is akin to trying to change the shape of your head with a hat – it doesn't work.

Toe-spreading devices

These little tools are wedged between the big toe and its neighbor, working to push the big toe back into proper position and prevent crowding of the smaller toes. Unfortunately, they sometimes work the opposite way, because as they force the big toe straight, they also push the small toes outward. If that sounds uncomfortable, that's because it is. It's also ineffective.

Other spreaders work on all five toes, and may be more comfortable and consistent, but their efficacy remains questionable.

Toe straighteners

These devices are possibly the most complicated of all. They feature a padded splint to hold the big toe in place, bolstered by a spring and ring eye. Often, people get so frustrated by these contraptions that they end up failing to use them properly, if at all. Additionally, they tend to be quite uncomfortable.

Bunion splints and braces

Rigid bunion splints that provide arch support have been shown to be effective at halting or slowing the progression of bunions when worn on a regular basis. These devices work by getting to the root of the deformity, which often stems from improper biomechanics or structural problems in the foot.

The Bunion Aid by Alpha Orthotics provides much more than a splint to keep the big toe straight, as it also includes a mid-foot strap with a supportive pad to provide arch support. Additionally, it features a hinged design, allowing wearers to retain some mobility while correcting their bunions.