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Is Your Toe Box Wide Enough? The Simple Test to Ensure Running Success

Is Your Toe Box Wide Enough? The Simple Test to Ensure Running Success

If you put a lot of miles on your running shoes, it is important you make sure they are allowing your feet to function they way they were made to function. We have a simple guide here that goes over the basics of shopping for a running shoe, but also be sure you have enough toe box for your feet.

First Consider the Foot Tripod

Your shoes need to accommodate the foot tripod.

What is the foot tripod? When your foot hits the ground it essentially acts like a tripod to support and distribute the forces of walking and running.



The structures of your foot that make the tripod are:

  1. the head of the first metatarsal
  2. the head of the 5th metatarsal
  3. the middle of the calcaneus

These 3 points of contact are important because when they all are correctly positioned on the ground the muscles of your foot and ankle work most efficiently. This in turn provides the stability you need to carry out your run. The size of your toe box will greatly affect the foot tripod depending on the build and shape of the shoe.

The Toe Box

The toe box is the front part of your shoe where your toes are.

A lot of running shoes have a narrow toe box which essentially smashes your toes together. Toes smashed together can lead to greater chances of bunions, hammer toes, and general soreness after running. It also becomes a problem because narrow toe boxes interferes with the foot tripod with every running step.

Imagine you set up a regular tripod and the feet of the tripod are really narrow or close together it falls over easy with a light push. If you widen out the base of the tripod it becomes a lot more stable.

Now take your foot.

If your forefoot is bound and squeezed together is like having a narrow tripod. Instead your forefoot should have room enough to splay like does when you place your barefoot on the ground. This will allow improved leverage and stability with every running step.

Make sure the toe box is wide enough to for your toes to splay and create the natural tripod it was meant to be.

The Rule of Thumb

To make sure you have enough space for your toes to spread follow this simple test:

  1. Take out the insole from any potential shoe
  2. Place it on the ground
  3. Step on it


If your foot is hanging off the sides of the insole, the toe box is most likely too narrow. This means you either have to go for a bigger shoe size or choose a different style shoe that will give you the right amount of room for your forefoot.

A second tip is to make sure there is at least a thumb nails width from your longest toe to the end of the toe box. If you do these two things you will have better success at having the right amount of toe box for your running feet.

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Isom Allan, PT, DPT

Isom Allan, PT, DPT

In his spare time, Isom enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, reading, hiking, camping, and traveling. He also enjoys playing racquet sports and trying out new restaurants.