How to Use a Bunion Splint to Straighten Hallux Valgus (Bunions)

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A bunion splint supports the mid-foot while pulling the big toe away from the second toe
A bunion splint supports the mid-foot while pulling the big toe away from the second toe (Image: feet #7 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com)

A common conservative treatment for mild to moderate bunions (Hallux valgus) and bunion pain is to wear a bunion splint. The basic design of a bunion splint includes a “holder” for the big toe, extended in a longitudinal direction and connected to another “binding” around the mid-foot, resulting in a corrective force on the big toe. To successfully realign a bunion, make sure the bunion splint supports the foot, straightens the big toe and protects the irritated tissue.

Treat the underlying foot function that contributes to the toe deviation. Initial deviation is caused by flattening of the foot, also known as pronation, which places excessive tension on the tendon in the upper mid-foot. This tendon contracts, pulling the big toe laterally toward the second toe and forcing the base joint of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) outward. Pressure on this area causes thickening of bone, resulting in the formation of a bunion deformity.

Select a splint that supports the mid-foot, straightens the big toe and protects the swollen bunion area. A well-designed bunion splint provides support to the mid-foot’s two arches (longitudinal and transverse) and stabilizes the mid-foot, while pulling the big toe away from the second toe and gently stretching the tendon between the first and second metatarsal bones. An effective splint also protects the irritated area of the bunion with soft padding.

Wear a bunion splint during the day while walking or at night while resting. Walking in bunion splints (day splints) allows for flexing of the big toe while the splint pulls the big toe away from the second toe, providing correction through the range of motion. Rigid night splints can only be worn while resting, because they are not weight-bearing; hence, realignment of the big toe occurs laterally in one static position and may not be as effective as a dynamic day splint.

Wear a bunion splint daily or frequently for best results. Compliance contributes to the success of any bunion splint in correcting the bunion deformity. Depending on the severity of the bunion, daily or frequent use of a bunion splint is required to witness any significant improvement. Because a bunion cannot be “cured,” ongoing preventive care (such as wearing a bunion splint frequently) helps you avoid further progression of a bunion or the reappearance of a bunion after bunion surgery.

Tips & Warnings

  • For best results, wear a splint daily for 30 minutes and up to three or four hours, depending on the severity of the bunion.
  • Wear a bunion splint after a day or an event of wearing high-heeled and pointed-toe shoes to help stretch the tendon and realign the big toe.
  • People with diabetes should avoid wearing bunion splints due to circulation issues.

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