What Are The Best Toe Separators for Runners in 2019?

Silhouette of a runner using the best toe separators for runners with a beautiful landscape in the background.

Running is a great activity for general all-round fitness and to help increase performance in specific sporting activities. Running has numerous proven health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases—by up to 50 percent—and reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Dr Aaron Baggish, Cardiologist and associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, notes that as well as increasing cardiovascular fitness and longevity, running can also improve mood, decrease the symptoms of depression and increase perceived quality of life.

Running has lots of positive things going for it, but as with most things in life, it’s not all good news. Running, especially for long distances and at high speeds leads to pretty brutal mechanical force going through our weight-bearing joints. This can lead to injury.

Fortunately, technology and ingenuity have provided us with various products to help absorb some of the shock and reduce the risk of injury. Toe separators have been around for a while, but they’re now available in various forms.

If you haven’t come across them before, they’re definitely worth taking a closer look at…

Product
Details
Our Rating
Our #1 Rated
Toe Separators

ZenToes

Toe Separators

5 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

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  • Designed to provide pain relief from bunions and overlapping toes without surgery
  • Soft yet durable gel toe separator gently realigns your big toe, allowing you to stand or walk for longer in comfort
  • Medical-grade gel is latex free and washable making it reusable and allergy friendly
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #1 Rated

5 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category


Our #2 Rated
Gel Toe Separators

Petask

Gel Toe Separators

4 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

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  • FUNCTION : Safe and natural way to get pain relief from bunions and overlapping toes without surgery, specialize in...
  • EFFECT : Align and straighten your deformed toes and feet with gentle pressure after a long day of work. Relieve foot pain...
  • MATERIAL : Petask Rubber Toe Stretchers are made of durable, soft and stretchable medical-grade gel, comfortable and safe,...
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #2 Rated

4 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category


Our #3 Rated
Foot Alignment Socks

WESTLINK

Foot Alignment Socks

4 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

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  • Size:Fit Women's US shoe size 4-7
  • Material: 90% Cotton + 10% Spandex
  • These socks are a comfortable way to increase the space between your toes
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #3 Rated

4 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category


Our #4 Rated
Alignment Socks

AAATS

Alignment Socks

3 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

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  • AAATS Gel Lined Toes Alignment Socks Moisturize Soften Therapeutic Toe Skin Moisturizing Sock Yoga GYM Massage Five Toe...
  • Great for locking in moisture after applying foot cream. The gel forms a seal to lock in moisturizers with skin.
  • Cushions the balls of the feet and metatarsal areas. Gel lining cushions the toes, ball of foot and top of foot for relief...
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #4 Rated

3 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category


Our #5 Rated
No Show Five Finger Socks

HABITER

No Show Five Finger Socks

3 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

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  • Comfortable Fabric: This toe socks are made of 82% Cotton,15% Polyester,3% Spandex.high quality fabric wicks sweat and soft,...
  • Benefits of Five Toe Socks: Men toe socks allow your toes to align and splay naturally to reduce friction and sweat buildup,...
  • Make Sports More Enjoyable: Ankle toe socks with nicely cushioned heel tap to prevent friction or sliding, compatible with...
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #5 Rated

3 out of 5

In the Toe Separators for Runners category

What Are Toe Separators?

While it may sound self-explanatory, and it’s true that toe separators do exactly that, there are different kinds of toe separators available on the market.

Some toe separators are made from a soft-feel pad which sits below or in front of the ball of the foot, with firm gel pillars that slide in between each of the toes. Others come in the form of socks; either with holes for each individual toe or a fabric or yarn bar between each toe, leaving the actual toes unencumbered.

Various types of toe separators are available either to separate one problem toe from its neighbor, or to separate all five toes. They can be made of silicone or gel, plastic lined with fabric, foam, neoprene or other firm fabric.

Who Needs Toe Separators?

Sometimes toe separators are used for specific problems, such as bunions, hammer toes, corns, calluses, curled or overlapping toes and when a toe needs to be splinted. They can stop irritation and protect skin abrasions for further damage.

The silicon and gel toe separators can help absorb some of the shock each time a foot is placed when we run. They can stop toes from rubbing together and correct small biomechanical variations, so could potentially reduce the risk of many different injuries.

So toe separators can be of use to many different people for a variety of reasons. The type of toe separators you choose to use is down to personal preference, but also how much support you need and what you find comfortable to work with during training.

This is a great video on reasons why people might choose to use toe separators, and also shows how some of the different styles of products work:

Do Toe Separators Work?

Whether or not toe separators work depends on what the issue is and what people want the toe separators to do. Toe separators have been shown to be effective for many different problems.

Here’s what they’re designed to do:

Address Biomechanical Alignment Problems

Another function of many toe separators is to provide gentle correction of forefeet and toe misalignment issues. While some people report almost immediate relief, it can take a few months of gentle encouragement to notice a difference in alignment and associated symptoms.

Certainly, toe separators have been shown to be very effective—more so than using taping techniques—in the prevention of misalignment of the first metatarsal joint in the big toe.

Shock Absorption

The aim of toe separators is to gently support and separate your toes, allowing the forces generated during running to be distributed over a wider surface area. Even the thinnest extra layer of fabric under the foot when running will help absorb at least a little of the shock and provide extra cushioning.

The toe separators that incorporate gel or silicone are likely to be more helpful in absorbing shock than the fabric type, although they have the disadvantage of not absorbing any perspiration.

Toe Separators and Muscle Activity

Unfortunately, these days we spend so much time on nice smooth surfaces, and squeezing our feet into shoes which aren’t designed around the natural form of our feet. This means that many structures, including the intrinsic muscles, aren’t able to work as well as they should.

Toe separators have also been found to increase the activity of the numerous smaller, short muscles in the foot, which we collectively label the intrinsic muscles. These help our feet to stabilize us, and work hard when we’re on uneven ground.

Other studies have also theorized that toe separators are effective in spreading the toes in order to decrease the activity of overactive muscles in the foot and ankle. This would allow the other muscles, including the intrinsic muscles, to become more active. The study found toe separators to be a useful treatment option in helping to improve gait.

Relieve Pain

Many people report that toe separators help to decrease the amount of pain associated with several different foot posture problems. As long as the toe separator you’re using is doing something to address the problem, then it’s likely to help reduce pain.

Some people find that pain relief, as with other symptoms, can be immediate but many people also find that their pain levels change over a period of a few weeks or months of use.

Depending on the individual problem and the type of toe separator used, they can be very effective in reducing pain by a significant margin.

May Help Improve Running Technique

Running technique is very difficult to analyze properly without specialist scientific equipment, but anecdotally, many runners report that using toe separators make them more aware of what’s going on with their feet when they’re training.

A number of people, for example, think that using toe separators encourages them to make good contact during the toe-off phase of running gait, when the foot leaves the running surface. This could potentially lead to improvements in running technique.

Precautions for Use

All toe separators change the way our body works to some degree or another. This must be carefully managed to make sure that there are no problems as a result of using toe separators.

Carefully consider why you want to use toe separators. Check that toe separators are an appropriate solution to your problem. If you’re not sure, it’s best to check with a specialist medical professional, like a biomechanical specialist or a podiatrist.

Check that the product you choose is appropriate for running. Some toe separators, such as those for yoga aren’t designed to be used with footwear. Some are purely designed for comfort around the home and to wear as toe-free bed socks. These products are unlikely to be suitable for helping to manage your problem.

Use the toe separators exactly as detailed in the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Some toe protectors need to be worn for just a few minutes each day to start with, gradually building up the amount of time you wear them for over a few weeks. This makes them impractical for running in at first, but it’s important to give your feet this time to adjust.

Monitor your symptoms carefully. Write down how you feel after each run, and in general, and rate your pain or symptoms on a zero to ten scale regularly. This will allow you to see whether or not the toe separators are making a difference.

It’s important to give any toe separator a reasonable amount of time to determine whether or not it works well for you. If there’s no difference after a few months of use, try a different product or seek specialist advice.

What Are the Best Toe Separators for Runners?

Having got the low-down on all things about toe separators, we’re now moving on to the business end of things—the best toe separators available on the market.

We already know that the various types of toe separators work in different ways. The product that’s right for you depends on individual circumstances and personal choice. After hours of research and reviewing products, here are our best toe separators for runners.

We’ve chosen five top-quality products of a few different styles and highlighted their key features to help you decide which could be best for you.

Our #1 Rated
Our pick our #1 rated

ZenToes

Toe Separators

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

These individual toe separators are from a very well-known manufacturer, and come in a set of four. People generally found them comfortable to wear, and they stayed in place during activity. Some users noticed an almost immediate improvement in foot posture, allowing users to train for longer and reducing pain in the case of bunions.

Each separator slides on an individual toe, like a ring, and creates a little space between the toes, preventing friction. They also gently encourage correct alignment. Although the one size does fit most toes, there were a couple of cases where they didn’t, and one user felt they weren’t supportive enough to help a severe case of misalignment.

Pros
Pro Made from medical-grade latex.
Pro Set of four individual toe separators.
Pro Gentle misalignment correction.
Pro Can provide immediate pain relief.
Pro Prevents friction.
Pro One size fits most toes.
Pro Anti slip.
Cons
Con May not fit all toes.
Con Not firm enough for severe misalignment correction.
 
 
 
 
 

Our #2 Rated
Our pick our #2 rated

Petask

Gel Toe Separators

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

This all-in-one device took some people a little getting used to, but the manufacturer advises to gradually increase the amount of time you wear them over a longer period. This means that for anyone running any distance, you need a good few weeks breaking-in period before using these toe separators for training.

Once that was done, although one or two people had problems with fit, most people found these devices fitted well without slipping and reduced pan and friction, even for people who were doing cross-country training.

One person reported them being too soft to provide support, another found them too hard, but most people agreed they were comfortable, supportive and excellent value for money.

Pros
Pro Manufactured from medical-grade rubber gel.
Pro Contains one pair.
Pro One size fits most feet.
Pro One piece device separates all toes.
Pro Ergonomic design.
Pro Anti slip.
Pro Soft feel for comfort.
Cons
Con Needs a wearing-in period before using for running.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #3 Rated
Our pick our #3 rated

WESTLINK

Foot Alignment Socks

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

Many people reported that these socks were good quality, made of nice thick fabric, were a good fit, and didn’t slip during activity. Some people were particularly impressed that these socks stopped their feet from sliding around inside their running shoes, and helped to prevent blisters.

Users also found that these comfortable-to-wear socks noticeably helped to stop toes from curling and crossing, and reduced pain in cases of plantar fasciitis and corns. A couple of people felt there wasn’t enough padding between the toes, but overall people liked the quality and excellent value for money of these socks.

Pros
Pro 90 percent cotton
Pro 10 percent spandex.
Pro Low-cut design.
Pro Absorbent.
Pro Breathable.
Pro Anti friction.
Pro Includes two pairs.
Pro Available in ten different colors.
Cons
Con One or two people wanted more inter-toe padding.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #4 Rated
Our pick our #4 rated

AAATS

Alignment Socks

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
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  • Quality
    Our rating

These are very interesting toe separators, especially if you don’t like the feeling of each individual toe being completely wrapped up. They feature five connected tubes to fit your toes through, and the sock itself comes to just past the midfoot.

People were very impressed with the amount of support from these socks, and many found they helped to relieve pain and encouraged correct alignment over time. People could really feel the socks stretching the soft tissue, and found these comfortable to wear underneath their regular running socks.

The only downside is the reasonably high price, but people found these socks wash very well and thought they’d probably last for several years.

Pros
Pro 89 percent acrylic
Pro 8 percent polyester
Pro 3 percent spandex.
Pro Half-foot design.
Pro Leaves toes free and uncovered.
Pro Stay-cool fabric.
Pro Absorbent.
Pro Gel lined.
Pro Reduces friction.
Pro Cushions the ball of the foot.
Pro Choice of seven different colors.
Cons
Con High price.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #5 Rated
Our pick our #5 rated

HABITER

No Show Five Finger Socks

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

These socks were a very popular choice, good quality, with adequate heel cushioning but fairly thin and lightweight. People found they were comfortable to wear, encouraged the toes to splay out naturally and helped runners to focus on a proper toe-off when running.

These socks were the most expensive of the products we reviewed. One person mentioned that the ribbed design at the midfoot helps the sock to stay in place, but could possibly cause friction on long distance runs. Most people, however, found that these socks helped to prevent blisters rather than cause them.

Pros
Pro 82 percent cotton
Pro 15 percent polyester
Pro 3 percent spandex.
Pro Stay cool fabric.
Pro Ultra-thin and lightweight.
Pro Absorbent.
Pro Reduces friction.
Pro Low-cut design.
Pro Cushioned heel.
Pro Choice of six different colors.
Pro 30-day replace or refund guarantee.
Cons
Con May cause friction in the midfoot on long runs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Choice

The variety of different styles of toe separators makes it quite hard to choose an overall winner. All of the toe separators were well liked by the majority of users, but the one that proved most popular was the ZenToes Pack of Four Toe Separators. They’re easy to use, fit most people, and have the convenience of being individual spacers.

Most users found them comfortable to wear during training, and were pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed in place—no sliding or twisting around. Most people were confident they could feel the gentle pressure of support, and many noted improvements in previous symptoms.

Although a few people thought they didn’t provide enough support to address serious alignment problems, you’d be hard pushed to find an off the shelf product that’s up to this specialist job. Made from medical-grade latex, these toe separators are great quality and impressed the vast majority of people.

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