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What’s in your toe box?

The shape of the toe box – add that to length and width next time you go shoe shopping.

toe box

I saw a young man who came into the clinic this week with a sore ingrown toenail. His family doctor had placed him on antibiotics and referred him to us for correction of the nail.  But there was a problem.  The primary issue was the fact that the patient’s great toe was exceedingly long.  What this meant was that I could fix the nail issue that he had today, but he was destined to have the same problems again due to the incompatibility between the shape of the toe box of his shoe and the length of his great toe.  Shorten the big toe?  It’s an option, but maybe, just maybe, the better choice would be to find a shoe that has a toe box that is compatible with the shape of his foot, right?

toe boxThe image to the left is a good example of incompatibility of the shape of the forefoot and the shape of the shoe.  It’s obvious that this foot is prone to problems with the great toe, including recurrent ingrown nail.  The image to the right shows a more compatible shape of the foot in relationship to the shape of the shoe.

Which shoe is right for you?  That’s a question that every foot doc gets asked every week.  And there’s reallytoe box no good answer to that question since every foot is just a little bit different.  But remember, length and width are just the start of finding the right shoe.

Here are some additional considerations when shoe shopping;

  • Shape of the toe box
  • Rigidity of the shank
  • Height of the heel
  • Breathability of the materials (leather and mesh vs. plastic)
  • Matching the right shoe to the right activity (no tennis shoes for chopping wood)

Interestingly, there’s a lot that goes into selecting the right shoes for each activity in your life.  One resource that can help is to find a shoe shop in your town that employs a certified pedorthist.  A pedorthist is trained and certified by the state to select and fit shoes for all ‘walks of life’.  For more information on finding a pedorthist in your area, go to the Pedorthic Footcare Association.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Advisor

Updated 3-11-2021

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