You’ve probably seen these flipping through Harriet Carter or the Dr. Leonard’s catalog, somewhere between a custom monogramed dog sweater and- ahem- personal massagers. It’s the ubiquitous bunion or hammertoe brace, promising to straighten out the toes, strengthen the foot, realign the joints, and on the way can even do windows. So my dear NYC podiatry patients, the question is- do they work?

In a word, no. Keep reading if you’re really bored, or if the Wi-Fi is out in the house. The splints in question are designed to maintain or even correct the alignment of a crooked toe. Through various medieval type torture techniques the big toe is pulled into a straight position and eventually the thinking goes it will maintain said position. Sounds pretty good, no? However, there are two major deficiencies in the thinking here.

First of all, these are fixed deformities involving bones, tendons, muscles, joints and a whole lot of genetics. Any device is just not strong enough to confer a meaningful benefit. They will, however make the joint feel better by repositioning the toe in such a way as to create a more even pressure distribution. Toe spacers are a great way to maintain the straight position of the toe in a relatively unobtrusive manner. But just as my glasses don’t change the shape of the lens of my eye, the splints only maintain the position of the toe temporarily. And from a marketing perspective, those devices are modeled on very straight feet, those that don’t likely need the device in the first place.

So if you’re looking for a way to place the toe back on the straight and narrow path, splints just aren’t the ideal method. Keep wearing those wide shoes, stay active, and please keep that catalog away from the kids.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson

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Ernest L Isaacson DPM PC
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