Toe separators may not be first on your list of tools to help you achieve your health goals. They may not even be anywhere near that list, and there’s a solid chance you’ve never even heard of a toe separator. If you’re familiar with the beliefs surrounding the Primal lifestyle, you know health is holistic. From diet to exercise and stress to sleep, many factors come into play when it comes to living optimally. One could even say healthy living ranges from your head to…your toes.
So, what exactly are toe separators and are there any benefits to keeping your little piggies apart? Read on to learn more about them and their purported benefits, as well as how toe separators may align with Primal living.
What Are Toe Separators?
Not much creativity was involved in naming this awkward looking device. Toe separators do just that—separate your toes and keep them from touching by creating space between your joints. If you’ve never seen one, you’re probably familiar with the concept if you’ve ever gotten a pedicure of stepped foot in a nail salon. Same design, just a different material. Toe separators (also commonly called toe spacers, toe stretchers, and toe spreaders) are typically made of gel or silicone and are slightly larger, sturdier, and more flexible.
Toe separators are designed to relieve pressure, pain, and restore alignment. Do they?
How Do Toe Separators Work?
Modern shoes are designed for fashion rather than foot health. A lifetime of squeezing your feet into narrow and even pointy shoes can lead to many common foot aliments including:
- Toe pain
- Plantar fasciitis
- Ingrown toenails
Foot pain can be debilitating and can lead to secondary issues such as an improper gait, and complications further up your body, including ankle, knee and back pain.
The great news is most chronic foot complaints are reversible! The key to rehabilitating your feet is to strengthen your foot muscles and toe separators can help you do this.
Toe separators come in a range of sizes, so it’s important that you choose the right size for your feet so they fit comfortably. It’s best to start wearing your toe separators around the house for brief periods initially. As you become more familiar with the feel of your toe separators, you can increase your time in them. You’ll soon find yourself stretching out to 30 minutes, then 4 hours and before you know it, you’ll be wearing your toe separators all day long.
The effectiveness of toes separators at correcting your toe positioning will depend on many factors including the severity of your ailment and your genetics. Once your feet become accustomed to them, you can try some basic fitness while wearing them. This could include walking, yoga practice, a set of squats or even running. The key is to strengthen your foot muscles while maintaining the correct position of your toes.
5 Benefits of Toe Separators
Toe separators are a relative new concept when it comes to foot health. To help you decide whether toe separators would be a good fit for you, here are our top 5 benefits for you to consider:
1. Bunion Reprieve
A 2018 study found toe separators were effective at treating Hallux Valgus deformities (bunions) in conjunction with stretching and other therapies. Tight and narrow shoes are one cause of bunions. Toe separators realign your big toe possibly offering bunion relief.
2. Corrected Gait
A separate study published in 2013 concluded toe separators may help with gait issues by improving ankle stability and muscle strength.
3. Improved Balance
Dr. Mark Perez, DC points out toe separators may help with balance by bringing your foot back into a better position, strengthening your arch and distributing the weight more evenly across your foot. A wider foot offers a more stable base for your entire body. Dr. Perez also points out the benefits of proper balance and functional position of the foot can have a trickle up effect of benefits, so to speak. When your structural foundation is solid and in its natural shape, that may alleviate any heel, ankle, knee, lower back pain, and so on and so up.
4. Shoe Undo and Pressure Relief
Many of us squeeze our feet into uncomfortable shoes from time to time (looking at you, high heels). Even if we remain pain-free and unaware, shoes can place pressure on unwanted areas of our feet due to heel height and toe box shape, among other design factors. Toe separators may restore alignment, taking pressure off areas created by conventional footwear.
Yoga Toes, a popular brand of toe separators, claims wearing shoes may lead to misshapen toes and toe separators exercise and strengthen the entire foot bringing it back to our barefoot days.
Another popular manufacture, The Toe Spacer, claims that just 10 minutes of use per day can improve mobility and undo damage done from shoes.
5. Increased Circulation From Alignment
Dr. Marty Hughes, DC of Natural Footgear explains how toe separators increase blood circulation to your feet and toes. In healthy feet, fresh blood reaches all of the foot’s tissues via small arteries. Footwear or anything that pushes the big toe out of alignment can disrupt this flow and affect tissue of the plantar fascia, possibly contributing to plantar fasciitis pain. Wearing toe separators can realign the big toe allowing for the natural flow to resume.
How Do Toe Separators Align With Primal Living?
One of the tenets of the Primal lifestyle is that our genes want us to be barefoot. Given that the main premise of toe separators is to help undo damage caused by wearing conventional shoes, it’s safe to say that toe separators are aligned with Primal living!
Odds are it isn’t feasible for the majority of us to walk around all day with bare feet. Habitual use of toe separators offers a method to counteract any of the structural damage shoes may be doing. If you’re interested in learning more about Primal living, consider checking in with a myPrimalCoach.
While there aren’t many direct studies on the efficacy of toe separators, the claims of their benefits are compelling and they do pair well with Primal living. Toe separators do not change the anatomy of your foot, they merely stretch it. If you’re keen to see what toe separators can do for you, consult with your health professional or podiatrist about whether or not toe separators are suitable for you.