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Summary: The Bent Big Toe

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  • Summary: The Bent Big Toe

    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 ( 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 ( wrote:

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


    Mark Harasimiuk ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

    ------------------------------------ the end of all
    responses ----------------------------

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