It is often taught that tight or snug shoes are needed for "support." However, tight shoes are not healthy for many reasons, or even needed. The posts Arch Support Is Not From Shoes and Which Shoes Help Exercise, Fall Prevention, and Ankles? explain more about the myth that support is from shoes.

Shoes worn snugly "for support" cause frequent problems. If your toes fit together like puzzle pieces or do not face straight ahead, it is likely that you frequently wear shoes that are too tight.

There should be space between each toe, and each toe should face straight forward, not turned toward either side.

If you need toe separators (a soft foam device for separating toes) to paint your toenails, your toes are too tight and bunched together. Toes that are bunched together need regular stretching to separate them. Take your toes in your hands and gently pull them apart. Some of my patients use those toe separators to wear to bed. That is all right to start, but instead of only treating the result of a tightness problem, it is best to correct the problem with simple stretching before deformity progresses to the point where it is difficult to fix:

  • Pull your toes away from each other with your hands.
  • Straighten each toe gently.
  • Make sure all toes separate and can wiggle.
  • Practice wiggling your toes.
  • Don't wear shoes that push your toes together or keep them from moving.
  • Avoid tight socks and stockings - "tight" is anything that presses your toes together.
  • When standing, don't tighten or clench your toes against the floor or each other. Don't press toes into the ground to balance so much that they buckle and bend. Keep your weight distributed over your entire foot, including your heel. Notice if you rock forward to the ball of your foot when standing.
  • Take off shoes and all hosiery every day and let toes get sunlight and air.
  • When you exercise and walk, make sure you do not walk "toe-out." Turning the feet outward, sometimes called "duck-foot" used to be thought the normal direction of the fibers and muscles. Now it is known that both feet should be able to comfortably face straight ahead. 

Toes do many wonderful things for balance, walking, ability to jump and move quickly, for the shock absorption important to your hip, and more. See the post Healthy Toe Stretches for foot stretches. The next post will give fun stretches specifically for tight toes.