The short answer is, it depends. If you have been wearing high heels with pointy toes then it may be a more obvious “yes,” but for others, it may be more subtle that your seemingly good shoes may just not be fit right to you. Although shoes are designed with the purpose to do all sorts of wonderful things to be helpful, they also may work against you without some guidance on the right shoe for the right activity and for your specific foot needs.

With all the craze about running barefoot and minimalist shoes, I certainly started to wonder if this was good and who it is good for. Even I was convinced until recently that I needed to have the addition of arch supports in my slippers and very stiff orthopedic shoes for standing at work all day. Yet, at the end of the day I still had an arch that collapsed. I decided to do a case study on myself utilizing Correct Toes and see what would happen with giving my toes more space. I was curious to say the least of what I would learn either way to help others.

Using Toe Spacers

In May 2018, I started going barefoot at home and using Correct Toes toe spacers starting with 30 minutes and increasing gradually over months as the product recommended. I immediately loved the feeling of my toes spreading, noticed my arch lifting and I felt more grounded and balanced just with my toes spreading. It made sense from a balance perspective because I was increasing my support on a micro level. Most people get the idea that if you stand with your feet together it is harder to balance than when your feet are apart and the same holds true for your toes. My findings about feeling more balanced were also shared by the study performed by A. Kelly (2014) where it was noted that over a 4-week period of Correct Toes use that dynamic balance improved.Sherwood shoe insert comparison

After nearly 5 months, my arch stayed lifted all on its own without any support. Also, my usual orthopedic type shoes I wore at work started to bother my feet. To be honest, I was thrilled to notice these changes and to be able to attribute it to increasing foot strength. At that point, it was time to progress to a shoe designed to simulate being barefoot. This would be a shoe with a nice, flexible sole and wide toe box. I started wearing a shoe called Lems Primal 2 and have been in love with them ever since. As for running, I wear a neutral shoe and don’t feel ready to make any changes there yet, but maybe in time.

Could These Work For Me?

This was an experiment that personally has worked well for me. However, it would not be advised for those with peripheral artery disease or diabetic peripheral neuropathy. What I’ve noticed is that people do best transitioning to less support gradually if their primary impairment is foot and calf muscle weakness. Those with fixed bony type deformities or specific foot and ankle stiffness may have additional or different needs. They will then need to work through these with their provider.

Laura’s Top 2 General Tips to Feel Your Best in Shoes

  1. Get fitted for the correct shoe size.
    • Believe it or not, the size may need to be different depending on what the shoe will be used for.
  2. Lots of space in the toe box to minimize the possibility of toe crowding, bunion or hammertoe formation.
    • Your foot will adapt to the shape you conform it to. If you take the shoe insert out and your foot spills over it, your shoe isn’t wide enough. McRitchie et al. found that shoe width was an important part of fit. When too narrow, there was a greater occurrence of Hallux Valgus or what most people know as a bunion.

  1. McRitchie M, Brandthwaite H and Chockalingam N. Footwear choices for painful feet — an observational study exploring footwear and foot problems in women. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. 2018. 11:23.
  2. Kelly, Adam Richard, “The Effects of a Foot-Toe Orthosis on Dynamic Balance and Hallux Valgus Angle” (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 161.