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What Is a Bunion Brace?

By J. Finnegan
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bunion brace is a device that's used to correct a bunion and alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by it. Sometimes called a bunion splint or bunion regulator, a bunion brace wraps around the big toe, separating it from the second toe, and part of the foot to help support the toe and correct the deformity. As opposed to a bunion brace, a bunion shield, also called a bunion pad, attaches to the foot and covers the bunion to provide protection, but doesn't offer the same level of corrective support as a brace. A bunion or toe separator is a soft device that slips between the big toe and the second toe, but doesn't brace the foot or provide overall support.

Treatment to relieve bunion pain and correct the bone deformity includes using a bunion brace, corrective surgery, and wearing low-heeled and wide-toed shoes with comfortable cushioned soles. Bunion braces come in a variety of styles and materials. Some can be worn while wearing shoes, others should be worn while barefoot.

Most bunion braces wrap around the great toe. Some will include a padded area between the first and second toes, others will only have a thin toe sleeve. In addition to the toe wrap, there is a sleeve that goes over part of the foot. In some cases, the foot sleeve of the bunion brace extends to the heel and is usually adjustable, allowing for customizable support. The materials used to make the brace vary from a simple elastic sleeve with no padding or adjustability to a combination of elastic material, neoprene, gel padding, and plastic support rods.

When the big toe turns and leans toward the second toe, it causes a painful bump on the inside of the foot called a bunion. Other symptoms often accompany the bunion such as callousing or inflammation along the big toe and pain over the joint, which is made worse by wearing shoes. A similar deformity can occur on the outside of the foot and is called a bunionette.

Occasionally people can be predisposed to bunion formation and can pass the predisposition to their children. Foot deformities, arthritis, and foot injuries can also cause bunion formation. Most often, however, they are formed by wearing ill-fitting shoes. Narrow-toed and high-heeled shoes are the most common causes. Women are far more likely than men to develop them.

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