Shoe Glossary: The Toe Box and Why It's Important to Get It Right

For a Comfortable Shoe, It's All in the Toe Box

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The toe box is the part of a shoe that covers and protects the toes. Toe boxes come in a variety of shapes and styles depending on the type of shoe, but they should always be wide and long enough to accommodate the toes comfortably.

Every shoe, other than sandals, has a toe box, but not every shoe has a toe box that's shaped like toes. Different shoe manufacturers and shoe styles offer different types of toe boxes. Finding a shoe with a perfectly-fitting toe box will take some work, but it's possible.

Finding the Right Toe Box

If the toe box doesn't fit properly, it can lead to quite a few problems: some minor, like blisters, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses, crooked toes, and unsightly black toenails; and some major, like inflamed nerves, pain in the ball of the foot, and even arthritis.

A shoe might fit lengthwise, but if it feels tight around the toes, your feet won't be able to keep their natural movement, which can lead to the problems listed above. Avoid issues with a shoe that gives your toes plenty of room.

If you find that your toes feel tight in a lot of your shoes, you might have wide feet. Measure your feet at home or get professionally measured in a shoe store to find your exact size. The pain could be resolved simply by buying a pair of shoes that are designed specifically for your feet.

You can also find the right toe box by taking the insole out of the shoe and standing on it. If your toes or feet hang over the edge, it's probably not the right kind of toe box.

Men's Shoes

The toe boxes in men's shoes rarely cause issues. In general, men's shoes are made to conform to the shape of the foot. The only cause for pain in the toes is if the foot is wide, and that's a very easy fix: get sized and buy a pair of shoes that fit the width of your foot.

Women's Shoes

Shoes like stilettos and ballet flats are stylish, but they have notoriously bad toe boxes. Treat your toes to a square shaped or wide toe box, and stick to lower heels. If you can't give up high heels, look for styles with a platform underneath the toe box. For flats, look for styles that have elastic around the top line to better grip the foot.

You don't have to stop wearing your favorite fashionable shoes altogether; just make sure you give your feet a break every so often with comfortable shoes that have roomy toe boxes.

Children's Shoes

If you're a parent, you may have purchased a new pair of shoes for your child, only to have them outgrow them within a few months. In order to have a pair of children's shoes endure a growth spurt, the toe box should be roomy enough for your child to wiggle their toes, and it's recommended that there be a finger's width of space between the toes and the tips of the shoes to accommodate growth.