Problematic Shoe Design Features Explained

Problematic Shoe Design Features Explained

Posted by Apex Foot Health on 22nd Sep 2022

Your uncomfortable shoes are hurting you.

That sounds dramatic, but unless you buy shoes from companies that invest in your foot health, it's true. The majority of shoes on the market are made for fashion purposes, are poorly designed shoes, and, according to research, can do long-term harm.

Before we get into the details of problematic shoe design components, you need to know a few things about the anatomy of your foot.

Quick Foot Anatomy Lesson

In terms of toe springs (below), the bones we're concerned with are your phalanx or the bones that make up your toes and attach them to the rest of your feet. There are three phalanx types, proximal (closest), medial (middle), and distal (the farthest from your body).

Your proximal phalanx connects to your metatarsals via the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. Makes sense, right? This joint is in the ball of your foot, where you push off the earth to walk forward.

Detail of an X-Ray of a Foot

The Problem with an Elevated Toe Spring

The toe spring is an industry term that refers to the toe of your shoe curling up if it's sitting flat on the ground. Many shoes these days have this, but they shouldn't.

Harvard researchers ran a study where they looked at two groups of people wearing shoes (one group with toe springs, one without). They found that the people with toe spring shoes had lower rebound power than those without.

Their research showed that this phenomenon had to do with lower activation of the MTP joint (detailed above).

They associated this finding with the high prevalence of plantar fasciitis, the world's most commonly occurring foot problem.

To see if your shoes have a toe spring, lay them on a flat surface and see if the toe of the shoe touches the surface.

If it curves up and has space between it and the floor, that's a toe spring, and you should invest in better shoes.

Tapering Toe Boxes

Another toe-related problematic shoe design occurs when the toe box (usually from your MTP through the end of your toes) narrows in from the rest of your shoe. There's no benefit to this, and it's related to everything from bunions to soft tissue damage.

Look for shoes with consistent toe boxes for your best foot health. Check out our blog post on tapering toe boxes to learn more about the cause and how to relieve pain caused by tapering toe boxes.

Example of Shoes With Tapering Toe Boxes

Heel Elevation

It's tempting to buy shoes with a lot of cushioning, especially if you have foot pain! But, paradoxically, thickly padded shoes can lead to more foot pain.

Too much cushioning leads to heel elevation, where your heel is higher than the rest of your foot. Like toe springs, this changes the mechanics of how your foot rebounds and leads to foot and joint issues.

To learn more about heel elevation and stack height issues, check out our detailed guide on our blog. 

No More Uncomfortable Shoes: Your Options

While you can always get insoles to put in uncomfortable shoes, the best thing you can do for your feet is to buy well-designed shoes. The shoes on our site support your foot health and reduce the side effects associated with the badly designed shoe components detailed above.

You'll notice an immediate difference when you invest in our shoes, especially if you opt for APEX insoles to go in them.

Your foot health affects everything from your energy levels to your spine alignment, so invest in good shoes today!