Several months ago, Dr. McClanahan, a podiatrist in Oregon had offered up his Correct Toes product for me to try. In addition to using the product, I decided to make a full-time switch to completely minimalist shoes at work as well. That meant bucking the trend of wearing dressy shoes in a very conservative region for medical attire. Though my zero drop timberland black and brown dress shoes were definitely not your typical “classy” dress shoe, they were also only “close enough” to minimalist standards of footwear. Nonetheless, I was ready to go more natural with shoegear at work.
For at-work shoes, I decided to go with solid black Crocs most days and occasionally wear brown Stems, both of which meet the criteria of allowing and promoting natural foot health. (See the links section for the criteria of choosing a shoe.) I have been wearing the correct toes approximately 60-80% of the time (including sleeping, running, working), and using a shoe with my 3 specifications 100% of the time. This was very liberating for me, because I was able to “go minimal” at work as well as play, and finally wear shoes corresponding to natural foot function at all times. The crocs and stems were also the only shoes I had that I was physically able to fit in with the correct toes.
I have to say, I was very skeptical of the correct toes. There are other “bracing” products on the market, such as yoga toes and flextastic. Patients seem not to have success with them, but those same patients also continue to wear terrible shoes. Yoga toes and flextastic are meant to be worn just at the end of the day and never in shoes, but the main feature of the correct toes is that you are supposed to wear them at all times, so I was quite interested to see what they could do.
The first xray above shows my foot in late August of this year; on that day I was taking an xray to familiarize myself with the system at my new job. At that point, I had been wearing minimal shoes running for years, but I still had casual shoes that did not meet specifications, and my dress shoes were still relatively narrow in the toebox, but much better than the high-heeled, tapered toebox shoes (“classy”) I had used in the past in our podiatry school clinics. My foot may have felt pretty healthy at the time of the xray, but look at the bunion deformity and look how my toes fit the shape of a modern shoe, similar to the picture in the header of this website.
Recently, when I remembered I had taken an xray of my foot a few months ago before using the correct toes, I decided to take another to see if there was any measurable progress. So, after almost 4 months of using minimal shoes 100% of the time, and using the Correct Toes product 75% of the time, this is what the foot looks like now:
This is really an astounding change for 4 months! The bunion deformity is decreased and the toes are more rectus (straight) and appear to have freed themselves from the influence of a modern, tapered-toebox shoe. Even the metatarsus adductus angle (metatarsal bones pointing inward) seems lessened, though I haven’t confirmed this by drawing out the angles. I don’t know if my eyes are playing tricks, but my arch seems less cavus as well.
Because of the combined influence of the correct toes and the switch to wearing minimal shoes full-time, I can’t say what contributed more to the positive changes. I can say, though, that I have been wearing minimal casual and running shoes for 2+years, and the bunion and cavus deformities still looked pretty significant 4 months ago. The correct toes seemed to have helped me strengthen my intrinsics with the toes in a corrected position.
Here’s a comparison: when I do short sprint workouts (200 meter or less) I wear one of two pairs of shoes. One is my traditional cross country racing waffle, which I have run in for years. Those shoes are very minimal (zero heel drop, minimal to no cushioning) but have a significantly tapered toebox. The other is my vibram five fingers. After a hard sprint workout in the VFFs, I can feel a good post-workout soreness in the foot intrinsics, which I have never felt in any other shoe. Like the correct toes, the VFFs hold the toes themselves in a more natural, rectus position (they way they probably would’ve developed without the influence of modern shoes). Holding the toes in this position may better allow for the proper development of those intrinsic foot/toe muscles (versus doing exercises, using minimal shoes without that bracing). So far, the correct toes seem to be an invaluble tool for regaining natural foot health and function in people who have helped deform their feet with modern shoegear. I’ll continue to keep a critical eye on them and report back in the future!
Check the correct toes out for yourself on Dr. McClanahan’s website:
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