According to a study from NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) on toe separators / spacers and night splints, it concluded that none of them were able to change the joint angle of the great toe significantly enough to be considered effective.
The toe separators did seem to provide a higher percentage of patients with pain relief than the night splint; however, it did not have a positive effect in changing the structural alignment of the bunion itself.
Currently, surgery continues to be the only effective way to correct a painful bunion, however, there are important non-surgical treatments that improve the efficiency and function of the foot itself. This can result in a decrease in the pain associated with a painful bunion, or decrease the progression of a non painful bunion so as to prevent it from becoming painful.
These non-surgical improvements in foot function are essential to recovery post operatively. Physical Therapy can be the right intervention needed to prevent the need for surgery, or, it can ensure that the patient is the best possible candidate going into surgery, and has the shortest and most effective recovery post operatively.
Because of a lack of evidence, we can’t recommend that toe spacers, or night splints be used as a strategy for correcting a bunion. Due to their relatively low cost and the potential for these treatment interventions providing some pain relief, we don’t discourage patients from trying them.