How Toe Spacers Work to Relieve Pain, Improve Plantar Fasciitis, and More

Toe spacers can relieve pain, improve gait, and more.


Feb. 22 2024, Updated 2:21 p.m. ET

Closeup of woman's feet with toe separators
Source: iStock

Toe spacers, aka toe separators, are a simple yet revolutionary tool in the world of podiatry. Alexander Weil invented the original toe spacers in 1914 to help people prevent foot conditions caused by toe crowding. Over a century later, there's plenty of evidence that toe separators can help with a variety of foot conditions — just make sure to consult with a podiatrist before trying out this tool.

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Read on to learn more about a few benefits of toe spacers and discover a few of the ways they can help people who struggle with various health issues.

Spacers can help realign the toe muscles.

Research from the Journal of Orthopaedic Reports explains how toe separators grip each toe at their base and separate them, and realign the interior muscles that curve around the surrounding toes. This can be helpful for people with flat feet, as wearing toe spacers may help combat overpronation.

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And a 2022 study published in Annals of 3D Printed Medicine notes that toe spacers can gently improve compromised issues like an irregular hallux valgus angle (HVA) by pushing the muscles apart and keeping them separated.

Toe spacers can help with stability and balance.

Because toe spacers work to evenly distribute your body weight, wearing toe spacers can help your entire body by improving your balance and stability, according to the company Earth Runners. Toe spacers are often targeted to athletes who want to work on their balance and stability skills.

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Better toe alignment improves a person’s gait.

Muscular female feet on half toes on wooden floor
Source: iStock

Per Spacer Mobility, wearing toe spacers can be beneficial for with a misaligned big toe, as this condition can negatively impact your balance and gait (the way you walk). In this case, toe separators can realign the big toe, as well as strengthen parts of the foot that don't typically get a lot of use — and this can improve your gait, the company claims.

An improved gait makes falls less likely for older adults, per 2021 research published in Age and Ageing.

Toe spacers can improve common foot conditions, including plantar fasciitis and bunions.

According to the company Spacer Mobility, wearing toe spacers can relieve uncomfortable foot conditions including plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes, blisters, and corns.

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Research published in the American Journal of Case Reports in 2023 found that toe spreaders improved both plantar fasciitis and bunions when used recurrently. The pressure redistribution in a standing position makes both conditions less likely.

Toe spacers can relieve pain associated with overlapping toes.

Female podiatrist working on patient's foot
Source: iStock

When toes overlap each other and they can’t all press into the ground, the result is often long-term discomfort, per 2022 research published in StatPearls. Toe spacers can divert that pressure into the ground by separating the toes so that they each touch the ground, reducing the pain someone might feel with overlapping toes.

Wearing toe separators can also gently push overlapping or underlapping toes into the correct alignment, per the Foot & Ankle Clinic.

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