By: Tammy Kulpa
By now you've probably heard about SOM Footwear's roomy toe box, but do you know why it is so essential?
You may be wondering if people with "normal" sized feet need a roomy toe box, or if it is specifically designed for people with wide feet (or "Donald Duck feet").
Let's take a step back and look at the foot of a newborn child. Notice the shape of their foot- the foot is the widest at the toes, and there is natural space between the toes. Now look at your own feet, do you notice any similarities? What are the differences?
If you've spent your entire life barefoot (like those in developing countries), congratulations- you have the healthiest feet in the world! Your toes are straight, there is healthy space between them, and chances are, your feet are, well, foot shaped- like those of a newborn.
If you are reading this right now, you most likely fall into the second category (you've worn some sort of shoe your entire life). Your toes are probably pressed together and your foot may taper near the toes, just like your shoes. You may even suffer from hammer toe or bunions (but hopefully not!).
Unfortunately, today's footwear is designed so that the ball of the foot area is the widest part of your shoe, even though the toes are the widest part of our feet. Why do we put up with it? We are used to it- shoes have been designed this way since humans began wearing footwear. You may not have even noticed that your shoes were reshaping your feet.
Dr. Ray McClanahan, a podiatrist at Northwest Foot & Ankle and creator of Correct Toes explains, "The toes are critical for our sense of balance, which is very important when we go onto our toes just before we toe off in the part of walking and running that we call propulsion. When our toes are not properly spaced and grasping the ground, our legs and upper bodies are forced to make compensations for the instability of our toes and our gait is less balanced and less efficient. Most shoe wearing people begin to lose the function of their toes early in life because almost all shoes push the toes together and hold them above the ground surface. We make compensations for our faulty walking, but the cost of these compensations is foot deformity, leg and back pain and abnormal gait. Thus, it makes sense to find shoes that allow an individual to spread their toes and have the ends of their toes next to the ground. Unfortunately, there are few such shoes available, and furthermore most shoes have an elevated heel which further compounds the imbalance within the toes of the foot."
While you will see the most dramatically affected changes in foot shape from pointy dress shoes, high heels, and cowboy boots, it is important to realize that casual and athletic shoes are also guilty of the tapering toe box.
Now that you understand the importance of a roomy toe box, what will your next pair of casual shoes look like? Will they be traditional, with a tapered toe box, or will they be designed around the natural shape of the human foot?