One of our customers had a question,

"The space between my toes and the steel toe is about 1.5cm. When used for about 6 hours straight, my toes begin to feel pain especially the 3rd and 4th digit. What should I do?"

We have a lot of customers with this question so we thought we would share Bob's answer with you:

It sounds as if the side of the safety toe is rubbing the side of your toes. Remember, safety toe comfort comes in length, not width; you have to get the shoe long enough to accommodate the back and forth toe movement in the shoes. The proper fit occurs when the widest point of your foot (The Ball) is located exactly in the widest part of the shoe. When that happens the arch of your foot fits precisely with the arch of the shoe, giving you maximum support from the shoe.

So what is happening? Your arch has probably dropped some extending the toes of the shoes forward. Take your hand and put it on a table with the fingers going forward and the thumb back. That is the shape of your arch, Now move the fingers forward and you get the action of your arch and toes as you take a step. The arch of the foot drops as weight is placed on it, and the toes slide forward into the shoe. This back and forth motion of your toes is why you need to fit your shoes (not just safety shoes) using your arch measurement.

The arch measurement can be obtained with a Brannock Foot Measuring Device you should find in most good shoe stores. Without that measurement, you can get a pretty good idea how your arch is fitting in your current shoes by feeling for the ball of your foot while wearing your shoes. Rub the side of your foot and feel where the “ball” (bone) of the foot is located in your shoe. Turn the shoe over with the sole facing you, and you can see where the widest point of the sole is. That is where the “ball” of your foot should be. If it is slightly forward of that precise point, it is too far forward and you need a longer shoe.

Suggestion: Try to get your foot measured in a shoe store before you buy your next pair of safety shoes to see if your arch has dropped a little extending the toes further into your shoes to the point where they are rubbing the safety toe.

Over time, as you get older, weaker, weigh more, and your arch drops, your foot will get longer. It happens to everyone! When I was 21, my shoe size was 9.5; I now wear an 11 at 68 years of age. Over that time though, I have gone from 32 inch waist to 36, and my weight increased from about 140 to about 175. Like I said this happens to everyone. Your foot size (currently 7, 7.5, or 8) is going to change over time, just like your pants, belt, hat, and shirt sizes do.

Now, your foot really hasn’t gotten any bigger, it’s just changed shape. The arch drops and the toes and arch extend further in the shoe. That means you need a longer shoe, may be a US 7.5 (8 is probably too big). Now unfortunately, when you go to a longer shoe, it is going to feel “bigger”. You should be getting a narrower shoe as you go up in shoe size to conform to your foot just getting longer, not bigger, but that isn’t possible because shoes today are made mostly in mediums and wides. That may require you to buy an insole for your shoes to “take up” the extra room. You can buy a thin flat insole that you can put under the shoe’s insole or a ¾ insole unit you put on top of the insole, or a high quality, full, replacement insole (thicker than the original insole) to replace the original. You are trying to make the insole slightly thicker to take up some of the additional room in the ½ size larger shoe. Try them on with the shoes you want to buy to see what works for you.

Also, you can look for and get a wider safety toe shoe. Safety toes come in lots of different sizes and shapes, and some come in a very wide shape, known as “oblique”. Regardless, you should try to find one with a larger toe box. When you turn the shoe over and look at the sole you get a better picture of the shape of the safety toe. If the toe or shoe fits tight, you just have to get a longer shoe. 

One more tip: These bigger brands typically have their shoes made by several different manufacturers. Different styles within the same brand will fit differently because of this fact. Again, you just have to try the shoes on and test the location of the “ball” of your foot in the shoe to make sure you are getting the right fit.

I hope this helps you understand how your toes now are starting to hurt you in your safety shoes and how you can avoid this issue in the future. Let me know what you plan to do. Stay in touch and let me know what you did and how these tips worked for you. I wish I could be there to work with you, but I think if you apply the tips, you should be able to find a more comfortable fit.