View Full Version : Summary: The Bent Big Toe

John Kim
12-11-2001, 09:20 AM
Being a layperson, I was not able to digest all the responses nor did I feel
qualified to edit or summarize, so I include below all the responses. I
gather that the evidence is not yet conclusive whether and how shoes bend
big toes, although people seem convinced that having a bent toe does affect
one's performance.

I personally have big toes that are fairly straight and are the longest
toes. So it's difficult for me to find athletic shoes that fit well because
all of them have pointed toeboxes. I often wonder whether I would perform
better or feel less fatigue if I had athletic shoes that fit the outline of
feet very well. Which is the original motivation for posting my question.

Thanks to everyone who responded. I long for the day that Birkenstocks makes
athletic shoes!

-John Kim


C. Pell (cap@nektonresearch.com) wrote:

Point: my own toes are jammed inwards, which I have always attributed to
undersized shoes as a child. My daughter, however, challenged that by
coming out of the womb that way. Our fingers are also curved inwards to a
remarkable degree. I would take care when positing the cause of bent toes.
BTW, we run pretty fast. I set records in my schools.


E. Draper (e.draper@ic.ac.uk) wrote:

I think there is a lot to be done scientifically. Here's an unscientific web
page that seems support your hypothesis


Mark Harasimiuk (mark.harasimiuk@caphealth.org) wrote:

Try Cameron Kippen [C.Kippen@CURTIN.EDU.AU]He is a podiatrist in WA and he
has a keen interest in the history of shoes etc.


K. Bruntzel (kbruntzel@hotmail.com) wrote:

I recently completed a PhD dissertation where I discovered that various
types of athletic footwear appeared to change the mechanics of the mid-foot
structures during gait, so I have to agree with your observation that
barefoot may be better. I found that footwear not only restricted the
total movement of the foot when compared to barefoot conditions, but also
affected the timing of movements of individual anatomical structures and
thus not allowing the foot to function normally. There are also some
studies that reflect lower overuse injury rates among barefoot runners. You
might want to look up the following reference:

Robbins, SE and Hanna, AM. 1987. Running-related injury prevention through
barefoot adaptations. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.


R. Joiner (rjoiner@calpoly.edu) wrote:

John, I don't know what effect pointed toes in shoes have on HAV (Hallux
abducto valgus) however I believe that foot mechanics have a more definitive
role on this. When the foot continues to pronate too long (into the time
when the foot should be resupinating) the first hallux cannot dorsiflex
adequately and so the foot must go around that joint rather than
over the top of it, as it should. This will put a valgus stress into that
joint every step (10,000 per day) thus causing long term deformation of the

Dorsiflexion of the first hallux is extremely important to proper mechanics
for running, jumping, etc. First hallux dorsiflexion contributes to
subtalar resupination which in turn contributes to external rotation of the
leg and thus facilitates stronger, more powerful, and (most importantly)
more efficient extensor contractions and movements. The more the
first hallux is deviated from the "sagittal plane" the less effectively it
will contribute to these mechanics.

I don't have specific numbers on exactly how much of an effect HAV has on
movements but I have to figure that it is significant. Benno Nigg, Darren
Stefanyshyn, and Beat Hintermann at the University of Calgary have done a
lot of research on pronation and thus have probably looked into this
particular topic. Also Robert Donatelli has published many works in
this area. Lastly, you should look through the various Podiatric
literature. I'm sure you'll find info there.

In regards to people who do not wear shoes showing more "splayed" toes, well
I have seen it go both ways. However, I personally believe that shoes with
arch supports being worn by children can cause the foot to not develop
properly, thus encouraging foot types that "over-pronate." So, in cultures
where these types of shoes are not worn, one might find "better
looking" feet (mechanically speaking) and thus more splayed toes. Good


Alex Stacoff (stacoff@biomech.mat.ethz.ch) wrote:

The way I see it the big toe and its position inside a shoe is an old
but unanswered question among those who are interested in sport shoe
research. Generally, I have the opinion that more investigation have been
done in the past with respect to the rearfoot (i.e. pronation problem of
runners) but only very few on the forefoot design of shoes. --- I think you
addressed tow questions in your email:

1. "The hallux valgus problem": See answer Manuel Sotelo.

2. "The shoe design of the forefoot and the possible effects with
respect to performance": I don't have any data, but I suspect that shoes
need to be made narrow in the forefoot in many sports, because of the
necessary stability for sideward cutting movements. That would be the case
in basketball, volleyball and others. Furthermore, the
forefoot design of shoes depends very much on the large variability of
shapes of the toes I to V. Thus, a generalization such as "lets make the
shoe broader in the forefoot", would need a thorough investigation. After
all, the lasts and the uppers would have to be changed in the
shoemaking process and that is a big investment for a shoe company.


K. Rambarran (kramb066@uottawa.ca) wrote:

The occurence of an adducted hallux is a common occurence. An adducted
is the result of an "over-pronated" foot type. An over-pronated foot is one
that is everted during dorsiflexion from late mid-stance to toe-off during
gait. It has been estimated by many health professionals that 85% of the
American population has feet problems related to over-pronation. As for its
relation to footware, that is still up for debate. One point working against
this notion is the fact that individuals can develop bunions (hallux
abducto-valgus) despite footwear used. Bunions are the result of years of
first toe working in this capacity.

As for its relavance to performance, the first metatarsophalangeal joint
toe joint) is the most poverful lever in the foot that is responsible for
propulsion during toe-off. The act of this joint to produce these froces is
known as high-gear push-off. If the toe is being adducted during this stage
gait its ability to produce force is diminished. The first
joint is better able to produce higher forces while mainly dorsiflexing from
late stance phase to toe-off.

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