Common Problems Caused by Poorly Fitting Shoes

February 6, 2023

orthopedic shoes

If your feet hurt, poorly fitting shoes may be the cause. There are several common problems caused by a too-tight and/or rigid shoe that doesn’t give your foot enough room to move properly while walking, according to Orlin & Cohen physical therapist Christopher Geremia, PTA.

When the front part of your shoe—known as the toe box—is too narrow or too short in height or length to fit properly, you may develop:

Ingrown toenails

When the toenail grows into the skin surrounding the nail resulting in pain and potentially recurrent infections.


When the big toe bends towards the other toes. This results in pain and irritation along the inside of the foot at the joint at the base of your big toe.


Where the middle joint of the toes gets tight and bends resulting in the tip of your toes hitting the floor.


Small round calluses on the top or side of your toes, generally seen with hammertoes.

How to Properly Fit Shoes

To help avoid or accommodate these common problems, look for shoes that don’t have pointed toes, or that have extra room in the toe box.

A good way to tell: Take out the shoe’s innersole and step directly on it. Your foot should fit on the innersole with no overlap. If there is overlap, your toes will be compressed inside the shoe. Opt for a different shoe where your foot fits on the innersole for function and comfort.

If you’ve already purchased shoes and find that your toes are being compressed by the sides or top of the toe box, the shoe may need to be broken in over time for a better fit. When breaking in a shoe, it is best to wear them for short periods and gradually increase wear time daily. This will gradually stretch out the toe box until you can wear them for your day without feeling soreness in your foot.

While anyone can experience these problems from poorly fitting shoes, they’re easily compounded by medical issues, such as diabetes mellitus or neuropathy that would require a prescription by a licensed healthcare provider, such as a physician or podiatrist. They can make specific recommendations for the size and shape of the toe box to better accommodate the diabetic or neuropathic foot.

If you’re having foot pain because of poorly fitting shoes or another reason, speak to a fellowship-trained foot specialist at Orlin & Cohen. Our network of offices is open seven days a week so it’s easy and convenient to get the care you need with same-day appointments and walk-in, after-hours care.