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Topic Overview

Many foot problems—such as bunions, calluses and corns, or hammer, claw, or mallet toes—will not become severely painful or disabling if you wear shoes with a wide toe box that gives your toes and the ball of your foot more room.

Try to wear shoes that:

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  • Have low heels. Avoid high-heeled, narrow, or pointed-toe shoes. High-heeled shoes increase pressure on the front of the foot and on the toe joints. If you cannot avoid wearing pumps or high-heeled shoes, choose shoes with heels that are no more than 2 in. (5 cm) high. Alternate wearing these with low-heeled shoes.
  • Have wide and deep toe boxes (the area that surrounds the toes). There should be about 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes.
  • Are made of materials that stretch. In some cases, it may be possible to stretch your shoes over the problem area so that they don't put pressure on a painful area. This may help relieve or prevent pain. Look for a shoe repair shop that stretches shoes, or ask your doctor to recommend one. You may also want to find a shoe manufacturer that makes special or custom shoes for people with foot problems.
  • Lace up rather than slip on. Athletic shoes are a good choice.
  • Have a rigid yet cushioned heel counter that keeps your foot from slipping out of the shoe.
  • Have a sole that doesn't hurt. For some people this means a flexible sole that allows your toes to bend as you walk. For other people, a firm sole that helps the joints stay straight is more comfortable.
  • Allow the ball of your foot to fit snugly into the widest part of the shoe.
  • Allow your feet to breathe when they sweat. Avoid plastic or vinyl shoes.
  • Do not have seams that may rub against or irritate the skin over your problem joint.

At home, try wearing sandals or soft-leather flat shoes or slippers. Or buy an inexpensive pair of shoes and cut a hole over the affected joint.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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