The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

You’re Such a Square…Forefoot

Posted by on Monday, August 6th, 2012


Remember squares? You know, back in your earliest geometry class–squares, or closed polygons with four sides of equal length, four right angles, two sets of parallel sides. There are plenty of examples of squares in every day life: square pieces of paper, square rooms, square shapes in a pattern on a tie. Square heads, square pegs, square feet.

Square feet?!! Square forefeet, actually, but for literary purposes I shortened it.

What are square forefeet? Is that what happens when you bind your feet like the Japanese used to do? No, foot binding was supposed to make feet stay tiny. Square forefeet is something you’re born with that can affect feet of any size.

So okay, how can a forefoot be square? Did you ever see “The Sound of Music?” Either the 1965 Academy Award winning box office smash or a terrible community theater production?

Yes, I’ve sat through both. Okay, there are the seven Von Trapp children, ranging in age from 16 (going on 17) to five years old. At the beginning of the play, before the zany soon-to-be-ex-nun-in-training Maria shows up, the seven kids march around like little robot soldiers because their father doesn’t believe in fun. The kids stand at attention according to height, meaning that a scene with the Von Trapp kids is often characterized by this visual of child actors lined up from the tallest to the smallest, creating this perfect sloping line. The kids loosen up after some time with Maria but directors love that visual of the kids forming that slope. Actually, at many auditions for the play, you’ll find the director endlessly arranging and rearranging kids to create that picture, trying to find the group that looks the best.

You seem to have a suspiciously intimate knowledge of this. Let’s just say that when everything else in my mind goes, I will still be able to sing “The Lonely Goatherd” and “So Long, Farewell.”

So what on earth does this have to do with toes? In a normal forefoot, the toes line up like the Von Trapp kids (except there are five toes, not seven), sloping neatly from biggest to smallest. If you were measuring the slope, you would find that the smallest toe is about ten degrees lower than the big toe.

In a square forefoot, though, the toes are all about the same height. If you tried to measure the slope, you’d find, well, no slope. Your forefoot would end with a straight line of toes, just like a square.

So what’s wrong with that? Doesn’t it make it easier to be a ballet dancer and stand on your toes? Well, I guess that’s the upside (though even that upside has a downside); square forefeet are kind of like natural toe shoes. However, for the rest of us, a square forefoot can actually lead to a number of problems. As we discussed with Morton’s toe, where the second toe is longer than the big toe, your foot can go off track when all the toes aren’t the right length. They’re different heights for a reason, most notably to help distribute the pressure from your body as your foot rolls through each step you take. As a result, people with square forefeet suffer from calluses on their forefoot and toes and pain in their toes and metatarsals. Oh, and other than square toe shoes, they have an awkward time finding shoes that fit; wearing shoes that don’t fit can then lead to corns.

What does a square forefooter do, then? Do they have to get new feet? Absolutely not! No, they should keep their own feet, square forefeet and all. Instead, a person with a square forefoot needs to find ways to protect their feet from the problems that come with having no toe slope. A podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) may recommend custom fit orthotics to help relieve pressure on the forefoot and provide support. The person with the square forefeet should look for shoes with a wide toebox, and try wearing a size or half size bigger than what they thought they needed. They should wear high heels and flip flops as little as possible.

Having a square forefoot may make shoe shopping a little more complicated, but in the end, it’s something you can manage with the right shoes and supports. Be nice to your forefeet, square or sloped!



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.