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Spreading toes with TOETOE® Socks: A solution to toe and forefoot pains (metatarsalgia)

The issue

Toes are a very common source of foot pains because they tend to receive so much abuse. Problems can occur directly from toes being rubbed within tight footwear or from toes becoming slowly deformed. Toe deformities and forefoot pains often arise from the effects of poor toe function during walking. 

Healthy toe function results in a stable forefoot. A stable, strong forefoot plays an important part in maintaining a happy foot!

Forefoot pain is called metatarsalgia, meaning ‘metatarsal pain’. The causes of metatarsalgia are quite diverse. They can result from soft tissue strains and tears, toe joint injuries, and ‘bruised and overloaded’ metatarsal bones. Common conditions that cause metatarsalgia include corns and callus in the skin, Morton’s neuroma, plantar plate strains, toe joint capsulitis or tears, sesamoiditis, metatarsal bone stress reactions or even stress fractures within metatarsals, and ‘tendinitis’ of toe muscles.

Why toe position matters

In barefoot populations, toes make up the widest part of the foot. Fossilised human footprints from millions of years ago to the late Stone Age all show that natural bare human feet have always had toes that spread out during walking. However, in modern shod populations, the forefoot behind the toes is usually the widest area of the foot. The toes are now unable to spread freely, as they had done for so long before shoes were invented. This loss of toe separation prevents natural, healthy foot function

The position of each toe is important because it affects the direction of forces generated by toe muscles that stabilise the forefoot. These forces should pull the toes onto the rounded metatarsal head ends that sit within the toe joints. This action creates stabilising compression directed along the long axis of the metatarsal bones. This can only happen when toes are able to separate apart, allowing the toes to correctly and directly align in front of each metatarsal as they spread out during weight-bearing. 

Wearing TOETOE® separator socks at the end of the day gives a chance for toes to spread out and be positioned into their natural alignment.

 Natural barefoot foot posture.           TOETOE® Separator Socks positioning toes correctly.


The cause of the problem

Toes move inwards because of the use of shoes and socks that compress the toes together. Tight footwear and hosiery can prevent the natural desire of toes to spread out. Over time, the soft tissues adapt to these abnormal positions and toes start to deform. In certain individuals, the resulting poor toe mechanics can lead to the development of hallux valgus, bunions, hammer toes, and bunionettes at the little toes. These problems can even start to form inside the shoes of children!

Using exercises daily to strengthen the toe muscles can help resist the problem and stretching the toes apart at the end of each day can help resist the deforming soft tissue forces developed from wearing shoes. 

However, extra help can be given through the use of TOETOE® separator socks every evening, while you and your feet are taking a rest.

Using TOETOE® Separator socks

The longer you have worn shoes and the more restrictive those shoes are on toe-motion, and this will influence how difficult it will be to get your toes to start to spread naturally again. Within a short while your toes will feel comfortable, more like they did when you wriggled them as a child.

To start with, TOETOE® Separator socks often feel rather odd. They may even feel a little uncomfortable for the first few days of using them. It is therefore important to wear them in, gradually.

Sometimes, bruising can develop at the base of the toes if you wear them for a long time, too quickly. However, this will quickly disappear and soon the benefits become very apparent, even if they are at first over-used. It is highly recommended that you break in your wearing time of TOETOE® Separator socks.

  • For the first week, just use them for an hour or two on an evening before you go to bed. They will initially, feel a little uncomfortable or odd. If you develop any bruising that is still present at the end of the week, don’t increase your wearing time yet. Wait until you have a week without any bruising before moving to more than two hours. 
  • If you have had no bruising, or the bruising quickly went away during the first week, you should be ready to try three hours use. The TOETOE® Separator socks should now feel comfortable to wear. If any bruising develops that hasn’t resolved by the end of this week, stick to two hours for another week. Only when there is no bruising and the socks feel comfortable, move on.
  • Bruising is very rare after using TOETOE® Separator socks comfortably for two hours without problems. However, if you do develop further bruising or discomfort, follow the previous advice before wearing the socks for longer than three hours.
  • If you have been using the TOETOE® separator socks comfortably for three hours or more without any discomfort and your feet feel more flexible around the toes than they used to, you might want to consider using them to sleep in. This means your toes will get a lovely stretch over 7 to 8 hours every night. Give it a try and if your toes are really comfortable every morning, try and do this at least a few nights a week


Other ways to help:

How about wearing toe pocket socks? Healthy Step offer a range of TOETOE® socks to choose from. Click here.

Consider performing some toe exercises every day. They will also make a great difference to forefoot pains and your toe postures and strength:

Foot therapy exercise balls are available from Healthy Step Ltd 




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