Update April 2021 — Toe separators, spacers, stretchers or spreaders can be very helpful in winning the war against your compromised foot. When you experience pain from bunions, hammer toes or plantar fasciitis, toe spacers are a way to relief. They come in various shapes, sizes and prices. Over the past few years we’ve tried and tested four different types. Neither one of them can be called ‘best’, as it really depends on use and budget. If we have to point out certain characteristics we found YogaToes to give the best stretch. But the ‘unbranded silicone’ ones may be the best bang for your buck in terms of flexibility and use. We’ll discuss a newcomer at the very end.
When it’s time for toe spacers
Do you consider using a tool to spread your toes? Then ask yourself what kind of benefit you hope to get out of them first. Also know it will take quite a bit of time to re-align and fix decades of compromising footwear. Spending time in toe spacers won’t magically fix your feet, also be prepared to train your feet to regain your natural foot function. If you predominantly wear shoes that force your feet in shoe-shape, you can expect little to no effect. Have a look below to see when it’s time for some toe spreading action.
Healthy feet have wide spread out toes (illustration left). The big toe should be able to function separate from the other toes. The big toe is your anker for movement and direction. The wider the spread of your toes, the bigger your base of support. This translates into a better ability to balance your weight transferred during motion.
A simple visual check can shed a light on your toe-spread. Do they look like the foot on the left or more like the one on the right? A sign of callouses on the side of your toes and a small toe that’s sort of ‘folded inwards’ are clear signs of compromised feet crying out for toe-freedom.
CorrectToes toe spacer
If you’re looking for toe spacers CorrectToes are clearly the most expensive, setting you back around 65 US Dollars or Euros. A lot of money for a piece of silicone. Then again, if it helps your foot health maybe price shouldn’t be your main concern.
In their own words: “Correct Toes help the foot rehabilitate from the negative effects of conventionally shaped footwear.” As a tool they can be very effective as you can wear them in your shoes (during movement) if you have wide enough shoes that is. Unfortunately not many shoes will accommodate CorrectToes very well. They have a full list of shoes that they recommend but buying shoes to fit CorrectToes is probably stretching it a bit too far.
The spacers are made of soft and smooth, flexible silicone, encouraging the toes back into their natural alignment. Natural alignment means wider feet at the front with a strong functioning big toe. The material feels durable, depending on amount of use and foot shape they should last long enough to see some positive changes.
Nice thing about them is they’re flexible in function too. They can be adjusted to fit both ‘beginners’ and more ‘experienced’ barefooters. As your big toe position spreads more, it’s possible to add some thickness to help your big or little toe spread even further.
Although they do not sit around the big and small toe they stay in place pretty well, but this will also depend on your current foot shape. We found wearing CorrectToes most comfortable walking in and around the house in combination with toe-socks. They work great with sandals too. With an open toe-box you have no worries about a cramped fit.
Original YogaToes toe stretchers
YogaToes offers two different type of products one for more ‘advanced’ users (Original) and one to help you ease more into it (Gems). We’ve been using Original YogaToes for our review. They give a solid, proper stretch which may take some time to get used to. Taking it slow is the best way to go. Start with 15 minutes, then add more time. What feels sort of uncomfortable at first might change into an addictive habit where your toes will crave for some stretching.
Material used is medical grade silicone (all three are actually). Difference is that YogaToes fit snugly around your toes from bottom to top. You really need to position your toes in place one by one. Once you have them on you can just sit back and relax, read a book or watch TV as you’re stretching out your toes. The thickness, density and solid feel make them especially suited to wear barefoot. They are absolutely not meant for movement, even standing or walking a little on these is almost impossible maybe even painful for untrained feet.
Priced around 38 USD or Euros YogaToes aren’t exactly cheap either, the design however is well thought out and after 3 years of regular use they still look pretty good. If you have these laying around your coffee table you’ll definitely feel the urge to put them on just to make your feet happy again.
Unbranded silicone toe spreaders
We sell these ourselves. This is probably one of the most common models offered by many suppliers/brands only in different colors. Having a ‘one size fits most’ proposition plus a much more attractive price point (15,95 USD) they put foot health in reach for everybody. So how do they work?
They sit around all toes with a thin silicone band. The silicone used is extremely soft and very pliable/stretchy. You might think the material can snap easily but it won’t because of the stretch. The spacers are made of the same silicone so these also feel soft to the touch. Don’t let that fool you, they give your toes a proper workout.
The softness makes these silicone toe separators our go-to tool to wear inside shoes. Compared to CorrectToes they feel much more ‘forgiving’ with a better fit in almost every pair of shoes with a wide toe-box. Being able to have toe correction while walking or performing other activities is the ultimate way to re-wire your brain and improve toe-function.
If you don’t have very functional shoes, try to wear the toe spreaders in and around the house with some toe-socks. You can even wear them inside regular socks, a nice extra if you don’t have a collection of toe-socks yet. We do believe toe-socks improve the experience with unbranded silicone toe spreaders. Simply because the silicone used can give a slightly sticky feel which some may find a little off-putting. Just like the other two you can easily rinse these toe spreaders off or wash them with some mild soap.
New: Toe Spreaders from The Sole Show
They come in a ‘one size fits most’ pair. Material is of very high quality, comparable to CorrectToes, but the silicone feels a little more forgiving (they’ll fit more easily in shoes with a wide toe-box). The stretch is comparable to CorrectToes, it also has pockets so you can add thickness with some cardboard for extra stretch.
They feel a lot nicer than the more ‘entry level’ unbranded silicone spreaders. Because of the smooth surface they won’t get sticky over longer periods of use. On top of it they come packed in a very handy organic cotton pouch. Great for hygienic storage. For 29,95 Euros the most durable option in this comparison.
If you’re opting for a serious stretch, YogaToes are the way to go. They are simple to use and great for a toe-workout when you’re actually relaxing. If you’re just starting out on the foot health path, the unbranded silicone ones are affordable while also being multi-functional. As already stated the ones from The Sole Show are the durable option if you can get your hands on them that is. Using the last two while moving will jumpstart your progress to foot health. Wear them inside regular socks and no-one will notice you’re working your feet!
One final note on this subject. As with any new habit or training tool, it’s important to take things slow. Your body will tell you when its had enough or when it’s time to back off. Improvement comes by walking the fine line of just the right amount of stimulation, not too much, not too little. Some discomfort is okay, but when you experience pain, always back off.
Read more: Barefoot shoes may not be functional shoes