The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

6 Foot Problems Caused By Tight Shoes

Posted by on Monday, October 7th, 2013


No one likes to admit they’re wrong… but, in some cases, making a wrong decision can be a relief. That means you DO have some power over your foot pain and control over your situation! “While many foot issues have a large genetic component, the type of shoes we wear can certainly adversely affect our feet,” explains Dr. Ryan Minara of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City. “Tight shoes often increase the incidence and severity of symptoms for deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, and neuromas. They may also lead to problems with the nails and skin.” We’ll cover six of the most common foot problems caused by tight shoes.

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Bunions are a bone deformity where the big toe turns inward toward the second toe. Sometimes they are unproblematic, but often they are accompanied by inflammation and throbbing pain. Genetic factors have been identified in bunion sufferers, but their development is also widely attributed to wearing shoes that are too tight, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity, but some people find a simple change to a shoe with a wider toe box helps a great deal.


Corns are raised, soft tissue calluses that form between toes as the result of friction and pressure from tight shoes. This type of foot problem can be treated by applying a foam pad over the corn to relieve the pressure — and by wearing shoes that do not smush the toes together.

Hammer Toes

Hammer toe deformity occurs when the toe curls up, rather than lying flat. This commonly happens to the middle toe joint. Feet crammed into high heels for extended periods of time can also cause the muscles that attach to the toes to weaken. Treatment options may include wearing toe splints, taping, icing, wearing wider shoes, and surgical correction.

Crossover Toes

A crossover toe occurs when an overly small toe box forces the second or third toe to move over the adjacent toe. Early symptoms may include pain on the ball of the foot, swelling, and sores on the crossing toe. Treatment with spacers, tape, ice, and wider shoes can help. In some instances, surgery is necessary.

Ingrown Toenails

When the nail is cut short near the tip of the toe and there is not enough room for the nail to grow upward as it normally does, the nail will occasionally turn inward and begin growing into the soft toe tissue. The constant pressure leads to inflammation and nail pain. Usually, nail debridement at the podiatrist’s office is needed to treat ingrown nails.


“In addition to bunion pain, corns, cysts and ankle irritation from tight shoes, we see a lot of nerve irritation at the top of the foot and neuroma pain at the bottom of the foot,” says Dr. Nadia Levy, a NYC podiatrist. A neuroma is a benign growth of nerve tissue along a nerve pathway that causes pain, burning sensations, and numbness radiating from the ball of the foot to the toes. Neuromas often occur in the third and fourth toes, but could affect other toes as well. Surgery is often needed to repair this common foot problem.

Are Your Tight Shoes TOO Tight?

“Although in some cases, shoes can be stretched a little, it’s better to buy a wider pair or go up a half-size and to try shoes on in the afternoon when your feet tend to be more swollen,” says The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine’s Dr. Katherine Lai. She adds that one should ideally be able to fit the width of one index finger between the ankle and the heel. At the opposite end, toes should be able to wiggle freely and one thumb’s width should fit between the top of the biggest toe and the end of the shoe. According to Ask Menyou can also find wider shoes labeled: 2E, 4E and 6E. Women can find comfier heels by choosing a heel no greater than two inches in height, platform heels, or shoes with rounded or square (rather than pointed) toe boxes.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.