Shoes that allow toe walking
October 18, 2018 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I have bone spurs in my toes that make it painful to walk, and doctors have recommended shoes with rocker soles to reduce the pain. I’m experimenting with those and have found one that mostly works, but it’s challenging for various fit reasons, so I’d like to try some additional options. I have always been a toe walker and do not have any foot pain when walking barefoot in this way. What shoes will allow me to walk on my toes?

Unlike rocker soles, this is a difficult thing to search for because the results I get are for shoes that discourage toe walking in children. I am aware of the existence of “barefoot shoes” and would love to hear opinions on what brands would be likely to work for me; it’s not clear to me if they will because they are designed to encourage a gait that emphasizes use of the forefoot but still uses the heel/ midfoot. Other suggestions/ options are welcome.

* I usually wear a women’s 7.5 wide

* My forefoot is quite wide (probably from all that toe walking) and my heel is average width, making typical wide width shoes hard to fit. Women’s wide widths are often not wide enough in the toe, and all wide widths slip on my heels. I mess around with heel pads a lot.

* I need to be able to wear shoes in an academic casual work environment; I can sometimes get away with sneakers but definitely not Vibram FiveFingers.

* In theory, high heeled shoes would be a good thing, but in reality normal shoes’ soles prevent my foot from working the way it should to toe-walk so they don’t. Shoes with even small heels, like my engineer boots, put too much pressure on my toes at the wrong angle; I can only wear flats.

* My tendons haven’t shortened or anything; non-toe-walking is only painful for me because it makes my toes move in a way they don’t like.

* I will usually wear rocker soles but my feet need a break from them sometimes.
posted by metasarah to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I absolutely love my Altras. They're a zero drop shoe, so your heel and forefoot are at the same level. But the best part I love about these shoes are their wide toe boxes! I have one of their running models, but looking at the site now, they are also making more lifestyle shoes that may be able to suit your needs if the running ones won't cut it.
posted by astapasta24 at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I too adore altras for their wide toe box and zero drop, but the heels are W I D E. Might work for someone with very very average heel width, but not mine. They're still the best I've found, but they slide around and cause blisters/wear out a the back of the heel because lacing them tightly enough to prevent them causes pain on arthritic toes. I will be watching this thread with interest.
posted by liminal_shadows at 8:41 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know about toe-walking per se, but if you're comfortable barefoot, then barefoot shoes are essentially what it says on the tin. I've been wearing a pair of "Hana" from Xero for the past year or so, having transitioned to that so I didn't have to endlessly talk about my Vibrams with everyone anymore, and they're great. People compliment them all the time, not even realizing what they are besides "shoes". I wouldn't say that they encourage any particular gait, because they're really just a foot-wrapper, but it sounds more like you mostly need shoes that get out of your way anyway?
posted by teremala at 8:41 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

In a similar vein, the Merrell trail glove is a zero drop, very minimal shoe with a pretty flexible vibram sole - primarily for barefoot style running but there are some non-garish colours that would be okay in a casual office setting I think. They have a broad toebox. I've used them for running for a long time so I can only really rate them for that, but I think they would be worth a look for what you need.
posted by crocomancer at 8:42 AM on October 18, 2018

I wear Tom's quite a bit. There's not much to them, so they are functionally like barefoot shoes, but look pretty normal.
posted by advicepig at 8:52 AM on October 18, 2018

Came in to recommend Merrell Trail Glove 4s. They are my main shoe and while I didn't get them for toe walking, I have found that they really encourage it. They have no heel riser whatsoever and a very thin, flexible sole that lets your foot actually move and engage naturally when you walk, rather than trying to hold it still. Sometimes when I'm wearing them I notice that I've switched to toe walking without actually meaning to.

Other "barefoot" trail runners would probably have similar characteristics, but I haven't felt the need to look past my Trail Gloves because they are perfect. As long as you don't need to deal with cold or wet weather and you're OK with a casual/sporty look, they are hands down the best shoe I have ever worn.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:05 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

They are not marketed as barefoot or super-wide, but Lucky Brand Emmie flats (in any of the leather materials) stretch a lot and don't have much padding. My very wide-in-front feet stretch them to the point that the side of the shoe has become the sole of the shoe (and has a hole in it). To me this is cosmetic; I can toe-walk in them just fine.

(By toe-walk, I assume you mean a forefoot landing and staying on the ball of your foot)

Another avenue: my cobbler recommends Hitchcock Shoes for being specialists in wide shoes (i.e. they will take a tracing of your foot and ship you a different size than the one you estimated if they think a different size will fit you better; they may be able to help with finding shoes with a narrow heel).
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:21 AM on October 18, 2018

I have similar foot issues I think? I have hallux rigidus, so my feet don't bend at the toes the way most people's do. Or they don't bend much anyway. For non-rocker sole shoes, I was instructed to get a carbon fiber insole plate that goes under the regular insole. It basically makes any shoe into a rocker-ish shoe. Perhaps that would help you? If so, I would recommend going in person to a shoe place that has these so that you know they fit, but if you can't get them in person. Here's a place you can buy them online.

My feet are definitely similarly shaped. Look into the brand Fitflop, especially their own website where they have a finder that can help you figure out which models are best for your feet.

I've also had a modicum of success with ordering men's or boys shoes--the last they use for making those is wider in the toe without being much wider in the heel. Men's shoes are also often cushier.

Other brands that have worked for me: Chaco and Birkenstock. With both of these, I'm not talking about the sandals but the shoes and boots they have on offer. Both brands are more accommodating to wide toes and usually have removable insoles.

I've also been considering buying something from the aptly named Duckfeet though their styles are not dressy enough for my conservative workplace.

If you don't mind sharing, I would love to know what rocker shoes are working well for you. I am always on the (somewhat desperate) hunt for shoes that fit.
posted by purple_bird at 9:27 AM on October 18, 2018

Another barefoot brand that's mostly good (some models are great, others less so) is vivobarefoot. Most models have very roomy toeboxes. Based on a previous question here, you apparently want to order from somewhere *other* than their online store.

If walking uphill or up a slight slope happens to feel better to you than dealing in first ground, you could try something called a negative-heel or negative-drop shoe.
posted by trig at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have similar-shaped feet and am a lifelong toe-walker and around the office I always wear Rocket Dog round-toe fabric flats - they have a bunch of different styles (the ones currently on their website are called Myrna and Memories) and they're usually available online and in department stores/DSW/etc., often for around $20 if you catch them on sale. I find them too flimsy to wear outdoors, but they're very comfortable to wear indoors, and I don't know what it is about them but they don't seem to slip off my heel as badly as most flats. YMMV obviously!

I also like wearing barefoot shoes; I find that the best of them allow you to walk almost exactly as you would walk barefoot. I used to have vivobarefoot flats that I loved but they were discontinued and their current fashion flat (Jing Jing) is much smaller in the toe box. They're also way more expensive than the Rocket Dogs, of course.
posted by mskyle at 11:37 AM on October 18, 2018

Kalso Earth Shoes have a negative drop that worked well for me until they stopped making Men's shoes.
posted by Dmenet at 11:42 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had to check to see if I accidentally wrote this question in a fugue state! I’m exactly the same, toe-walker, wide feet (just the toe part; my feet are shaped like flippers), even the size 7.5!

For the days when you can get away with sneakers, the only ones I wear any more are Saucony Jazz Low Pros. (Link goes to women’s shoes; they also have men’s.) I was hesitant because they don’t come in wide sizes, but they’re plenty roomy. The sole is more flexible than most sneakers, so they’re more comfortable for me to walk in. And they come in a bunch of fun colors!
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:10 PM on October 18, 2018

Newton shoes have a negative drop.

MBT have the most aggressive rocker by far, if you still want to check out other rockers.
posted by smoke at 1:29 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi! I too need rocket bottom shoes albeit for a different reason. Here’s what I recommend although it may get expensive...

Go to an orthotist. This is a person who makes leg braces, custom shoe inserts and the like. Tell them you want your shoes modified to be rocker bottom shoes. He/she may be able to modify your existing shoes by gluing an additional curved piece to the sole. In my case, I walked too much and the rocker came right off. Then, I took the rockers to a cobbler and he put them on with a better glue and some stitching.

Now, since I know what I want and I go through shoes quickly I skip the orthotist and go directly to the cobbler. For me, the cobbler is about $80/pair but I’m more comfortable so it’s worth it

Other options: Hapad sells stick on felt shoe inserts. They’re felted wool so you can trim them to fit and them stick them in your shoes. Use them to offload the painful areas.

Also, Zappos sells some rocker bottom shoes but I found them ugly.

Finally, my orthotist likes New Balance shoes because they come in a variety of widths. My picky feet happen to like Ecco brand Women’s shoes but at the rate I go through shoes that gets pricey.

Good luck!
posted by ticketmaster10 at 4:27 PM on October 19, 2018

If you need something a little fancier than a sneaker, Manitobah Mukluks have a thin vibram sole similar to my barefoot sneakers and they feel like slippers to wear. Very comfortable!
posted by bighappyhairydog at 8:02 AM on October 20, 2018

Purple_bird, the only ones I've found so far that work are the Altra Olympus 1.5. Unfortunately the updated version of this do NOT work for me.
posted by metasarah at 5:48 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

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