A recent study published in The Journal of Foot and Ankle Research reveals that a more narrow toe box construct of a shoe can lead to increase pressure on the toes resulting in abnormal foot function. The study examined 27 females and highlights that the shape of the toe box in footwear can significantly influence the amount of pressure applied to the forefoot. Furthermore, the contours of the shoe also have an impact on the contact time and pressure time integral around the forefoot and also the peak plantar pressure in the toe region.
This study helps to confirm the importance of making the switch to a minimalist shoe which incorporates a wider toe box allow the toes to function as they were intended to. If you look at the way minimalist shoes are being constructed today, you can see the difference in the toe box.
Nike, unfortunately, is late to adhere to this principal despite their early creation of a more flexible and naturally bending shoe called the Nike Free. If you look at the their newer shoes such the Flyknit, they continue to in corporate a smaller and more narrow toe box. There is no literature to date to support this shoe construct. Nike has improved the design with their new Free Flyknit as shown below.
The bottoms photo demonstrates the wide toe box of a New Balance Minimus that is also being incorporated into most of the minimalist shoe being designed today by other manufactures.
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