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Can Correct Toes Help You?

Can Correct Toes Help You?

Invented by podiatrist Ray McClanahan, Correct Toes realigns your toes to their natural position to achieve optimal foot health, and in doing so, claims to prevent and cure foot problems (such as hammertoes and bunions).  

Correct Toes is a sturdy toe-spacer made of medical grade silicon that gently, painlessly positions your toes in a more natural, more correct position.

McClanahan states that he has before and after photos showing the success of Correct Toes and clinical proof, but did not provide that for this review. He also states he is in the process of doing a clinical study to prove Correct Toes effectiveness.

Lack of clinical data does not mean a product does not work; in fact, when it comes to foot products such as arch supports, most companies’ claim their supports are beneficial but rarely provide any proof. One would think with all the money Dr. Scholl’s has, it is about time they provided some proof of the benefits of Gellin.

Unlike other toe-spacing products such as Yoga Toes, Correct Toes doesn’t just stretch your toes apart but puts them in their normal, physiologic position. Correct Toes is also compact enough that you can wear it in shoes—albeit you will need a shoe with a large, wide toe box. Lastly, Correct Toes is less expensive than Yoga Toes.  

When I asked McClanahan’s associate, Dr. Robyn R. Friedman how Correct Toes work, this was her reply:

Dr. McClanahan’s treatment approach is based largely on his experiences in west Africa, where there are some of the world’s greatest runners.  Being a competitive runner himself, Dr. McClanahan was interested in their training methods.  He was amazed to note that these top-notch runners train predominantly barefoot or in minimal footwear, and also they experience  a very low rate of injury, estimated to be about 3% (versus 65-75% of runners in the US.)  This low rate of foot (and knee, hip, lower back) ailments is seen elsewhere in the world where people are predominantly unshod or use predominantly flip-flops or sandals. 

Among the many conclusions that Dr. M drew from his experiences, one of them was that have strong, spaced toes is essential to proper foot health and maximally efficient gait, and most Americans, who have spent a lifetime in footwear that has elevated heels and tapered toe boxes, have lost this essential structural integrity that we were born with. 

The goal of Correct Toes is to return the toes to their appropriate and correct positioning, which would be the very shape of the foot we were born with – widest at the ends of the toes, with the toes spaced, straight, and strong.

So the mechanism of action: Correct Toes work in a similar way to how braces work for the teeth.  They place the toes into alignment and slowly and progressively allow the muscles and other tissues to adapt and strengthen accordingly.  But unlike with orthodontia, we’re simply trying to return the feet the their natural shape, the shape that had at birth, and the shape that would have remained if we had spent a lifetime either barefoot or in shoes that were sufficiently wide (in the toe box) and flat.

How long does it take to see results?  This varies, depending on many factors, such as the patient’s age, tissue elasticity, extent of the deformity, level of compliance (with using Correct Toes, wearing only wide & flat footwear, doing extensor stretches and other relevant stretches), how often the product is used in weight-bearing activity, and so on. 

Patients usually report feeling different/better/slightly sore right away or within a few days.  To actually see physical changes (the angle of the hallux valgus improving, or hammertoes starting to straighten), may take 3-6 months, with continuously progressive change over a year or two.  I like to remind patients that it took many, many years of wearing footwear with tapered toe boxes and heel elevation for our foot architecture to change from the strong, spread toes we were born with to the current architecture, and as such, positive changes will also require some time.  But it’s worth it, because the approach has a life-time of positive implications.

Intuitively, I agree with much of McClanahan’s theory. Certainly, just forcing people to wear shoes with a wide, non-constrictive toe box is going to help let the toes spread out. Further, for most people, their foot problems are likely due to wearing ill-fitting shoes.

I found Correct Toes comfortable, but using them for a few days did not yield any significant, measurable results. But, I did not really expect to see changes in such a short time. Correct Toes is a long term, conservative, natural method of addressing foot pain and deformities of the toes.

Oddly, few clinical studies exist on using spacers, splints or splinting to affect change in adult feet and toes. In one study of a toe splint, after 3 months, pain decreased but there was no improvement in digital alignment.

McClanahan claims structural change can occur in 3 to 6 months of use. I am not sure if the analogy to our teeth is correct. Our toes and feet are composed of bones, ligaments, capsular tissues, and muscle. Teeth only have to contend with the gums to hold their position. Further, given that dental braces are worn for anywhere from one and half to three years, I suspect Correct Toes would probably need to be worn for much longer six months to see structural changes—though McClanahan does allude (above) to the fact that changes occur for one or two years.

Certainly, Correct Toes, in theory, can gently stretch tight ligaments and muscles, pushing them toward their more correct positions. Again, I would love to see a clinical study on Correct Toes—just to gain some insight into how long this process would take.

I do find the idea of repositioning the toes, non-surgically, fascinating, and I see nothing wrong with wearing Correct Toes for six months or even a year or more to avoid surgery. (McClanahan did not say if he expects people to wear Correct Toes when asleep.)

Final Thoughts on Correct Toes

Most people want instant gratification and sadly, will not put a spacer on their foot for 3 months, let alone a year or more. However, for those who are willing to persist with wearing Correct Toes, it may be a great, simple, non-surgical solution to their foot pain, problems, and deformities.

To learn more about Correct Toes visit NW Foot & Ankle.

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  • Jonathan

    “Most people want instant gratification and sadly, will not put a spacer on their foot for 3 months, let alone a year or more”  You are so very right.  Not only that, most people are only concerned with what looks good and what is “trendy”, not about correct fit.  My family has owned and operated a shoe fitting store for 65 years and we are still trying to convince people to get into the correct size.  I would estimate at least 80% of people are in the wrong size, perhaps even more, maybe 90%+.

  • Portofly94

    Awesome info, thanks! One thing, the teeth are connected to the skull via synarthrotic joint, so they have to contest quite a bit more than just the gums, so his comparison to the feet and teeth was really pretty good. Cheers

  • Keith

     What generally constitutes as the “right size”?  just curious

  • pd

    I’ve only used the Correct Toes for a week, and I agree, this is not a quick fix. Most quick fixes don’t work or last. However, I do enjoy them. I expect that in 6 months of regular use, I will see some measurable alignment changes, but I imagine much more substantial change will show after a year or two of use. I am using them almost every day, wearing them either barefoot (in socks) or in wide-toed shoes, sometimes sleeping with them on.

    What I do notice is the wider toe spacing is requiring my foot and leg muscles to work differently, even after only a couple days use. Strengthening my feet (they have been week for many years) is the long-term solution and it feels like the Correct Toes are helping facilitate that.

  • Gia

    I’m a runner and was experiencing pain on top of my foot for a few months. It was deep down between the ligaments.  It wasn’t constant but it would get sore.  I remembered I’d purchased correct toes some time ago and began using them again.  Within a few days the soreness subsided great deal and the pain I would experience after my runs stopped. It feels like it stretched something and is getting better. 

  • DACVD

    This author clearly does not understand teeth, not did he consult with a dental professional before stating that “Teeth only have to contend with gums to hold their position.”  The teeth are firmly embedded in bone, and orthodontics (braces) put tension/torsion on the teeth, which in turn causes the bone supporting the teeth to change so the teeth are able to become more aligned.  Then the bone reforms around the teeth in the their new position.  This process is repeated monthly as small adjustments are made until the teeth are in their final alignment, which can take 2 to 3 years.  Then retainers are worn for another 2+ years, allowing the bone to firmly “fill in” to keep the teeth in their new alignment. so they do not rotate back to their original positions.  The bony involvement is what takes so much time in orthodontics, as opposed to the toes having so much soft tissue (i.e., tendons, ligaments, muscles) which does not usually take as much time to manipulate.   

  • http://butchjax.wordpress.com/ Jax

    I just ordered a pair hoping to correct small bone spurs in my foot. I switched to minimalist shoes over this year and now consciously stretch my toes throughout the day. I run in vibram 5 fingers and notice some change already in my toes. I can’t wait to get the correct toes!

  • ANNE NEILL

    DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT THE “CORRECT TOES” COSTS…I AM FROM SOUTH AFRICA..THANKYOU..ANNE