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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hanna Shays

How Toe Spreaders may Help Reduce Knee Pain & why Foot Health Matters

Person's feet in the air
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How Modern Footwear is Impacting our Toes:

Modern footwear emphasizes style and fashion, and often prioritizes aesthetics over functionality. This leads to us favoring and wearing shoes that constrict and deform our toes. Narrow toe boxes and elevated heels force our toes into unnatural positions, leading to conditions like bunions and hammertoes. Additionally, cushioned soles can weaken the muscles of the feet and alter our natural gait, contributing to issues such as plantar fasciitis and ankle instability. In essence, the design of modern footwear is often at odds with the natural shape and function of our feet, leading to long-term discomfort and foot-related problems.

How it Relates to Knee Pain:

Knee pain can be a debilitating issue, affecting daily activities and quality of life. While traditional treatments often focus on the knee joint itself, recent studies suggest that the root of knee pain may lie elsewhere – in the feet.

Additionally, toe spreaders can enhance stability and balance, which are crucial factors in maintaining healthy knee function.

Benefits Beyond the Feet:

When we have weak feet, we may pronate (arch collapses onto the floor rather than maintaining its height). Pronation at the feet causes a chain reaction up the leg, leading to knees collapsing in and hips internally rotating. Imagine how this stance might affect you over decades of time!

Providers will often prescribe orthotics and assume that this will solve the patient's problem. On the contrary, orthotics simply hold our feet in the "proper" position, making our foot muscles weaker and lazier. While orthotics can be temporarily helpful, they should ultimately be weaned off of as the patient's foot muscles become stronger with targeted exercises.

Unlike shoe orthotics, wearing toe spreaders can improve overall posture and biomechanics, which can have positive effects on various musculoskeletal issues, including back pain and hip pain.

Incorporating Toe Spreaders into Your Routine:

If you're experiencing knee pain, incorporating toe spreaders into your daily routine may offer relief. Start by wearing them for short periods, gradually increasing the duration as your feet adjust each week. Typically, many begin at 15 mins/day during the first week and progress to 30 mins/day, then 1-2 hrs/day until they can tolerate longer periods. Think of it like braces- an adjustment at first, but then less and less noticeable.

It's essential to choose high-quality toe spreaders that fit comfortably and provide adequate support. Additionally, consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist or podiatrist, to ensure that toe spreaders are suitable for your specific condition.

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