A common problem I run into in the clinic is running shoe width. For whatever reason, fashion has leaned towards far narrower shoes historically. This has improved a little in the last decade or so thanks to the barefoot running “movement”.
The “toe box” has become wider on most shoes – running shoes at least. You can see a nice example in this promo image from Altra. The image shows an x-ray of a runner in the wide toe box Altra shoes vs a more traditional narrow toe box running shoe. This is far less the case for work or dress shoes.
Running shoe width is important because shoes that are too narrow can lead to all sorts of problems. The little metatarsal bones of the foot get crushed together. This can lead to metatarsalgia or morton’s neuroma. It also limits the capacity of the toes to “splay out” and offer more opportunity to absorb impact forces. This could increase the risk of developing stress fractures.
A simple little test I use in the clinic all the time is to have runners stand on the outside of their shoes. You can try it yourself right now. Nestle your heel back as far as you can. You want to be able to see “a little shoe” all the way around your toes. Almost enough to run your little finger around.
The top left image shows my foot on my Altra Escalante shoes. I’m pretty happy with the room around the toes. The top right image shows my foot in some “comfortable” work shoes I bought from Walmart for like $30. You can see my little and big toes having trouble finding “room in the bed” (name that reference in the comments for a big prize) 🤪
The bottom left image shows my foot in my Saucony Kinvaras. I’m pretty happy again here. The final image in the bottom right shows my foot in my Vivo Barefoot Primus Trail running shoes. Not quite as bad as the Walmart disaster above, but not great. In fairness to Vivo, they specifically make wide toe box shoes, I just bought the wrong size 🤷♂️
Don’t buy shoes off the internet people! We need to try them on first. We also need to stand on the outside of them and run our little finger around 🤓
Have a try on your shoes now, post in the comments to let me know what you find.