Correct Toes Changed My Life and Here's Why You Must Take Care of Your Feet
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
I can remember a time when I never thought about my feet and how they were feeling, except for the rare occasion when I got a blister from running. For a solid 20 years, I never worried about keeping my feet healthy. All that changed my sophomore year in college when, in under two weeks, I developed acute plantar fasciitis and partially tore my right plantar fascia in a race. Ever since that race, I’ve spent every day keenly aware of my feet. And while I wish I could say that I took charge of my (foot) health and did the research on how to best take care of myself, I just listened to the podiatrist that I saw after my injury – I got specially-made inserts for my running shoes and bought into the idea from the doctor that I could never run barefoot again nor walk in sand without supportive shoes. Other than that, I didn’t do much for my feet once my physical therapy sessions ended, and I no longer had to wear a walking boot on my injured foot.
Why I Started to Take Control of My Foot Health
Fast forward to 2018: I started seeing more IG posts from Lara Heimann, founder of LYT Yoga, on foot health. (Side note: You definitely should follow her on IG, even if you don’t do yoga. If you are a person living in the modern world, she shares so much info on how you can live, move, and inhabit your body optimally.) Lara was advocating for spending more time barefoot, getting rid of shoe inserts, and using these things called toe spreaders, specifically Correct Toes. At this point, my feet were constantly hurting me, and I often worried about tearing my left plantar fascia or re-tearing my right plantar fascia (that’s how intense the pain was). I immediately took her advice – threw out my shoe inserts and got online to buy some toe spreaders. And my feet started feeling better within a matter of days.
Not All Toe Spreaders are Created Equal
My first pair of toe spreaders were bought off Amazon. I found ones that were cheap and had good reviews. Correct Toes (the brand Lara Heimann recommended) weren’t cheap, and I wasn’t sure if it was worth the investment yet. I figured that I just needed toe spreaders; that any brand would do. If you’ve listened to our episode with Dr. Ray McClanahan, you will know that not all toe spreaders are the same. Not only does the material that the toe spreaders are made of matter, but also the spacing between each toe matters.
Material – Like the story of Goldilocks, you want a material that is “just right” – not too rigid and not too squishy. The toe spreaders need to hold their shape while allowing some movement.
Spacing – Your toes are not designed to have the same space between each toe. There should be the biggest space between the big toe and your second toe. You do not want to force all of your toes to have the same spacing that should naturally be there between your big toe and second toe.
For me, my first pair of toe spreaders fell short on the spacing side of things. They were designed to create the same space between each toe. Luckily, I was wearing these spreaders while removing nail polish, and the acetone “melted” them. So I needed to buy new toe spreaders, and like some sort of (good) witch, Lara posted something about Correct Toes again. Seeing it as a sign, I bought a pair of Correct Toes and have never looked back (nor used them while removing nail polish).
My First Few Weeks of Correct Toes and Why I Swear by Them
I will say that the sensation of putting on the Correct Toes (or any toe spreader) and wearing them for the first few weeks is awkward and weird and a little uncomfortable. It should never be painful, though. If it is, you may not have the right size or may need to adjust the pair you got. Correct Toes has lots of resources on their website for choosing your right size and properly fitting them to your feet. The *interesting* sensation that I felt while wearing the Correct Toes those first weeks were a reminder to me that they were working. And they sure were working – within two weeks, my feet started feeling a hell of a lot better. To be fair, I had also stopped using shoe inserts for my running shoes, had drastically cut back on how often I wore high heels, and spent a lot of time stretching my calves & bottoms of my feet (while doing LYT yoga). So I wouldn’t say that I’m the model of the scientific method, but I do know that they helped!
And how do I know they helped and continue to help? Because I can spread my toes wide on my own. I know that sounds silly, but take a minute (and take your feet out of your socks & shoes) and try to spread your toes wide. I bet I can spread mine wider than yours. And I know I can spread them wider than before I used the toe spreaders. While this may seem silly, I see it is a big sign of my foot health. After all, our feet are made to be widest across the toes, and we have muscles in our feet that should be able to spread our toes wide. Besides my toe spreading abilities, I also know Correct Toes help me because I’m not perfect in using them every day, and I still wear sub-optimal shoes (read: shoes that narrow at the toes). Because of this, I still have days where my feet hurt. And when that happens, I put on my Correct Toes, spend the night walking around with them in my house, and wake up to happier feet.
My Tips on Correct Toes
First off, I think it’s important to highlight that Correct Toes aren’t necessary for everyone and shouldn’t be your first step (pun intended) in restoring your foot health. Dr. Ray McClanahan shared three key things that everyone should be doing to take care of their feet, regardless if your feet hurt you or not.
1. Walk around barefoot as much as possible, but minimally whenever you are in your own home. The more you can be barefoot, especially when you are putting your body weight on your feet, the more your feet are going to start to shift back to their natural shape.
2. When you must wear shoes, wear shoes that have a wider toe box – shoes that support the natural shape of your feet with the widest point of your feet being the spread of your toes. Thanks to fashion, our shoes are widest at the ball of the foot and then start to narrow. This narrowing forces your toes to be scrunched (scientific term) together in an unnatural shape. Let’s make shoes with a wider toe box fashionable!
3. Transition to zero drop shoes. This is a whole other topic, but I know that all women can understand how having your heel elevated can be painful on your feet, calves, and Achilles. But it’s not just high heels that are hurting us. Many of our shoes have a slight elevation in the heel. Even this slight elevation can wreak havoc on our bodies. Time to start adding some zero drop shoes to your collection.
*The Correct Toes website has tons of shoe recommendations in various styles that incorporate both the wider toe box and zero (or near zero) drop.
I loved what Dr. McClanahan said in our episode about not automatically going straight to toe spreaders, but doing these other things first. And, that by doing this things, you likely won’t need Correct Toes.
However, if you want to “speed up” the process of getting your natural toe spread back with some Correct Toes, here are a few things that I found helpful to know when I first started using them.
1. Read about/watch the videos on buying your right size and properly fitting them to your feet.
2. Weight bear while you are wearing them. You don’t get nearly the benefit from them if you put them on and sit down with them on. You supercharge their effect by having your body weight helping the Correct Toes spread your toes. I will put them on and do things around my house like cooking, cleaning, dancing, or even just talking on the phone and walking around. If you have the right shoes (ones with a wider toe box), then you can even wear them in your shoes.
3. Ease into how long you wear them for when you are first starting out. Start with a half hour a day for the first week and build from there.
Your Foot Health Matters
Even if you haven’t torn your plantar fascia or don’t really have any complaints about your feet, your foot health matters. Your feet are the foundation of your body (once you start walking) and forcing your feet into an unnatural shape has consequences that ripple throughout your body. Just because your feet don’t hurt, doesn’t mean that your knee or hip pain can’t be solved by taking care of your foot health.
Want to learn more or try it out yourself? Check out our episode with Correct Toes founder:
Check out our episode with Dr. Ray McClanahan: Episode 27: Why You Should Buy New Shoes
Correct Toes website