How to Prevent Toes From Curling in Running Shoes

Male tennis player tying his shoe
Choose a running shoe with a wide toe box to prevent toe curling. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Foot health and shoe comfort are critical factors for a runner. Shoes that curl your toes can cause pain, corns, blisters and calluses. Toe curling can result from anatomical imbalances, muscle or bone weaknesses or shoe deficiencies. Poor-fitting, worn and unsupportive running shoes can exacerbate problems with your feet. To prevent toe curling, wear a shoe that fits properly and provides space for toe movement.

Size of Shoes

The size of your shoe is critical to ensuring comfort and preventing injury. If your shoes are too small in length or width, your toes will feel cramped and might begin to curl. Measure your feet in inches and add approximately one-half inch to determine your shoe size. You will need extra space in your shoe when your foot expands at the end of the day or after your workout. Additionally, because your foot slides forward when you run, your toes need extra space to prevent cramping and curling.

Cushioning

The small muscles positioned between the bones of your feet tighten at the end of each step when you run, which helps prevent curling of the toes and widening of the forefoot. For some people, those muscles do not contract, which causes trauma to the ball of your foot. Over time, that will lead to injury and toe curling. Also, wearing shoes that are not cushioned properly can exacerbate this condition. Forefoot cushioning and good arch support assist in transferring the weight from the ball of your foot to other areas, such as the toes. Arch support inserts and forefoot pads can augment the performance and comfort of your running shoes.

Shoe Accessories

Some runners might curl their toes underneath other toes, such as the pinky toe curling underneath the fourth toe. When toes curl underneath each other, this can cause disproportionate weight distribution and blisters on your toes. Separating your toes with lamb’s wool, paper tape or socks with toe inserts can prevent curling and protect against blisters. Also, do not wear socks that are too restrictive or lace your shoestrings too tight because that increases the likelihood of toe curling.

Hammer Toes

Hammer toes is a condition in which the middle joint in one or more of your smaller toes remains contracted. The tendons and ligaments in the toes become tight from muscle imbalance, which causes the toes to curl. Movement can be restricted and might lead to the formation of corns on the top of the toes and pain in the ball of the foot. If you suffer from hammer toe, choose a running shoe with a wide and high toe box for maximal comfort. Additionally, hammer toe splints and crests are available to help hold the curling toes flat for greater balance. Use toe caps on the top of your toes to eliminate friction if you experience corns.

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