Working out can lead to injuries, especially to vulnerable areas like feet. To counter this, some athletes opt for toe separators.
But are toe separators really necessary?
What are Toe Separators Primarily Used For?
Your feet take a real beating every day. Factors like natural foot positioning and what kind of shoes you wear have the potential to negatively affect the health of your feet. When wearing narrow-toed shoes, for example, your toes will be pressed together, aligning them in an uncomfortable manner. This essentially changes the natural form of your feet, which can lead to a host of problems over the long term.
A neuroma is a fancy way of saying a pinched nerve. It has many possible causes, including pressure placed on toes by tight or high-heeled shoes. Check between your third and fourth toe. That’s where the neuroma develops. When the nerve is damaged, you’ll feel a growth in that area. Its effects depend on the individual. You may feel anything from numbness to tingling, to burning pain. Relief is simple: stop walking or massage the area. Toe separators (and avoid tight shoes) can help avoid neuromas from developing.
The sesamoids are two small bones just beneath your big toe. Naturally, these tiny bones are important for proper toe functioning–think of them as the shins of your big toe. And, of course, runners easily and often damage them. When running, your big toe flexor tendons need to transfer the force from your leg muscles to the base of the big toe. When they’re healthy, they can bear your body weight while maintaining your strength, mobility, flexibility, and leverage as you run. The impact they absorb helps reduce the stress placed on your metatarsal region–reducing the likelihood of neuroma formations. However, that will still put stress on the sesamoids.
That stress can be further aggravated by the toe boxes of your shoes. Most shoes push your big toe against your second. It pushes your sesamoids out of place, damaging the bones and the surrounding cartilage, and causing sesamoiditis. It can usually cause inflammation in the tendons, and if left untreated, you could break the sesamoid bones completely.
Since almost all kinds of footwear force your toes towards each other, sesamoiditis is very common. However, it can also be easily treated. By wearing thin toe separators that can fit around your toes while wearing your shoes, you can keep your toes and sesamoids in proper alignment.
However, the worst of these possible injuries is plantar fascia damage. The plantar fascia is a thin band of tissue connecting the heel bone and the toes. Plantar fasciitis is easily self-diagnosed with severe heel pain. While time and NSAIDs can treat the pain, our toe spacers are able to prevent it.
When toes are bunched up, there’s a decline in blood flow to the plantar fascia area. Separators can realign the toes with the metatarsal bones, increasing blood flow. This will help the plantar fascia damage heal and prevent it from happening again.
How Can I Straighten My Toes Naturally?
We would advise that you, before attempting any of your own remedies, to get a professional opinion on your specific cause for your crooked toes. In addition to some exercises that will certainly help, consider changing shoes for a pair with more room in the toe box. One way to help with straightening your toes are exercises that focus on strengthening them. Here are a few examples below.
- Stretch Bent Joints – For the toes that remain bent at the joints, you can simply stretch down and hold for a few moments. You’ll start to feel slight yet long pulling, which will let you know you’re doing it correctly. You can work one at a time, and repeat the process several times throughout the day.
- Pick-Up Exercises – This one is is easy. Simply lay some small items on the floor, marbles work the best, and pick them up with your toes. Then place a cup down to drop them into.
- Towel Curls – Another super easy exercise. Lay a towel on the floor and use your toes to bunch it up.
But as mentioned above, your best bet is to know why you need to straighten your toes in the first place, so make sure to take the time to get professional advice.
Toe separators are a minimal expense for the amount of protection they provide. Consider it as the cheapest insurance policy you’ve ever invested in.