Last updated: October 15, 2021

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Walking barefoot is healthy. Many orthopaedists therefore recommend doing without shoes as often as possible. At home this is not a problem, but outside the home it becomes a challenge for many.

Toe shoes are an excellent way to maintain the feeling of barefoot running and still be protected from external influences. In our big toe shoe test 2021 we have summarised the most important information for you.

We introduce you to different models and explain the most important criteria you should consider when buying. We also explain the advantages and disadvantages of toe shoes and give you useful answers to other important questions. In this way, we want to help you make the best possible purchase decision.




Summary

  • Toe shoes are characterised in particular by the fact that there is an individual covering for each toe in this footwear.
  • Toe shoes are suitable for a wide variety of uses. Depending on the model, they can be worn either indoors, outdoors or in water. Furthermore, they can be worn for leisure as well as for different sports.
  • Basically, toe shoes can be worn by everyone. However, they are particularly recommended for children and adolescents, as prevention against later deformities is still possible at this age.

The Best Toe Shoes: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for toe shoes

Below we present some aspects that will help you choose your toe shoes. The criteria that help you compare toe shoes include:

In the following sections we will explain these criteria in more detail.

Fit

When buying your toe shoes, you should first and foremost consider the pure shoe size, as with any other footwear. However, factors such as the length of the toes, the shape and width of the foot and the instep height also play an important role.

An optimal fit is extremely important for toe shoes. Therefore, in addition to the shoe size, you should also consider the length of your toes, the shape and width of the foot and the instep height.

Furthermore, there can be significant differences between models for men and women. These are reflected in the cut. Since women usually have more delicate feet, the toe shoes also have a correspondingly narrower cut.

For women with wider feet, men's models may be more suitable. However, there are also unisex models that do not differ so much in cut. Another important point is that you should never choose shoes that are too tight. If you are between two sizes, you should choose the larger size if in doubt.

As with all other shoes, sizes vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. That's why you should always read the size chart carefully beforehand. This may save you unnecessary second purchases.

Intended use

The intended use of your toe shoes also plays a role in your purchase. There are significant differences between the models in terms of appearance and functionality. The areas of application for toe shoes can be divided into therapeutic and orthopaedic purposes, different types of sports and everyday use.

There are toe shoes that are especially suitable for therapeutic and orthopaedic purposes. It is important to pay attention to this, especially in the case of existing deformities, and to discuss the purchase of such shoes with a specialist.

If you want to use your toe shoes for sports, you have a wide choice. There are models for fitness and indoor sports, jogging and running, trail running, trekking and hiking, hiking and walking, and especially for water sports and the beach. If you just want to wear your toe shoes in your free time, there are also models suitable for this.

Closure

There are also different options when it comes to the closure of toe shoes. You can choose between models with Velcro fasteners, quick-release fasteners or without fasteners.

The closure should not only be an optical criterion.

Models with a Velcro fastener are adjustable so that an individual fit is guaranteed. With a quick-release fastener, also called a lace-up fastener, the toe shoes are equipped with a quick lacing. This elastic strap also allows you to adjust the perfect fit on the foot.

The advantage of toe shoes without a fastener is that you can simply slip them on, so that they can be put on and taken off quickly. As you can see, when it comes to fastening options, you should not only consider your visual preferences, but also the functional advantages.

Season

The season in which you want to wear your toe shoes also plays a role. There is a basic distinction between summer and winter. The toe shoes differ in terms of their features. Most toe shoes you find in shops or online are more suitable for higher temperatures. Therefore, if you want to wear your shoes in winter, there are a few things you should consider.

The wrong toe shoes can lead to dangerous frostbite in winter.

Winter shoes should be equipped with an inner lining. This is very important because otherwise you risk dangerous frostbite in low temperatures. Furthermore, winter models have a lace fastening and a higher cut that goes all the way to the ankle. This prevents snow from getting in.

Furthermore, the shoes should be equipped with a non-slip sole and a water-repellent material such as neoprene. However, both variants have in common that they are still equipped with a thin sole. This is characteristic of toe shoes.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about toe shoes answered in detail

The most important questions that are often asked in connection with toe shoes are answered in detail below.

What are toe shoes?

Toe shoes are a sub-type of barefoot shoes, which are also called minimal shoes. Compared to conventional shoes, they are characterised by the fact that each toe is wrapped separately. This spreads the toes a little. They are thus comparable to gloves for the fingers. This feature sets them apart from conventional shoes and makes them visually very eye-catching.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of toe shoes?

Like everything else, toe shoes have certain advantages and disadvantages. You can see them in the following overview:

Advantages
  • free movement of the individual toes
  • Support of the running movement
  • Training of muscles and joints
  • Support of a healthy posture
  • Improved blood circulation in feet and lower legs
Disadvantages
  • possibly unpleasant odour development
  • appearance takes some getting used to
  • Difficult fit for unusual foot shapes ("Greek foot")
  • Additional costs due to special socks

How healthy are toe shoes?

When wearing toe shoes, contact with the ground is maintained as far as possible. This provides a permanent sensitisation of the soles of the feet, which trains the wearer's sense of balance.

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Walking barefoot is healthiest for the feet. It strengthens an upright gait and activates muscles. (Image source: Magdalena Otterstedt / Unsplash).

Furthermore, it has a positive influence on balance, as it reinforces an even posture. Toe shoes also promote blood circulation and prevent further strain, which is a risk with normal shoes.

Which areas of use are toe shoes suitable for?

Toe shoes are suitable for a wide range of applications. A distinction is made between indoor, outdoor and water. The following table gives you an overview of the different properties of toe shoes for the corresponding areas:

Area Properties
Outdoor waterproof/repellent, strongly profiled sole, usually lace-up or Velcro fastener, very robust
Indoor very light, breathable, sole finely profiled, non-slip, hardly or not at all waterproof/repellent
Water quick-drying material, non-slip, with small holes (perforation), permeable to water

Who are toe shoes suitable for?

Toe shoes are generally safe and suitable for everyone. They can be worn by both adults and children. However, toe shoes are particularly suitable for children to prevent deformities. With them, the position of the feet can be influenced even into adolescence. They can be worn by children as soon as they learn to walk.

However, children, for whom toe shoes make a lot of sense, do not like to wear toe shoes. The reason for this is that children are usually quite impatient and they do not feel like putting on the somewhat complicated toe shoes.

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Toe shoes are particularly suitable for children. Because at a young age, malpositions can be prevented that cannot be reversed later. (Image source: Esi Grünhagen / Pixabay)

This is probably the reason why demand has declined, because the range of toe shoes for children is now extremely limited or almost completely restricted. However, there are alternatives for toe shoes, which we will introduce to you later in this article.

Who should do without toe shoes?

Despite their fundamentally positive effects on health, there are still people who should avoid wearing toe shoes. This applies to the following groups of people:

  • People with deformities of the feet
  • People with back problems

Foot deformities include malpositions such as hallux vallgus or the bent-lower splayfoot. Especially if special insoles are needed because of these deformities, wearing toe shoes can potentially be even more harmful.

Therefore, if you suffer from such a deformity of your feet and still want to wear toe shoes, you should definitely discuss this with an expert beforehand. Furthermore, people who suffer from back pain are generally advised not to wear toe shoes.

Here, too, this type of footwear can possibly do more harm than good. Therefore, it is also advisable to consult a doctor beforehand and clarify the possibilities.

What should I bear in mind when wearing toe shoes?

Since your feet first have to get used to the new footwear, you should not rush at the beginning. For a successful transition from normal shoes to toe shoes, you should be guided by the following points:

  • Increase wearing times slowly: At the beginning, you should not wear your toe shoes outside for more than 15 to 20 minutes per day. After a few days you can slowly increase the time.
  • Start at home: It is also a good idea to wear your shoes at home while you are getting used to them. Again, you can increase the amount of time you wear the shoes after a few days. Wear the shoes when you go shopping or for short walks in the forest. This way you can get your feet used to the different surfaces.
  • Spare shoes: Pack a pair of normal spare shoes in advance before you leave the house. This way you can quickly change shoes if you feel pain.
  • Blister plasters and toe socks: Toe shoes are usually worn without socks. This of course increases the risk of your shoes scratching or rubbing quickly, or of blisters developing. You can prevent this with blister plasters or toe socks.

What are the alternatives to toe shoes?

As already mentioned, toe shoes are a subspecies of barefoot shoes. They hardly differ from toe shoes, except for the fact that the toes are not individually enclosed. So if toe shoes don't appeal to you at all in terms of looks or you don't like the feel of the individual toe enclosure, you can also go for simple barefoot shoes.

How do I clean and care for toe shoes?

Just like any other footwear, toe shoes require a certain amount of care and cleaning from time to time.

  • Washing: Cleaning your toe shoes is not a big job. If you can't or don't want to wash your shoes in a washing machine, you can simply wash them by hand. However, most shoes can be washed in a washing machine at 30 or 40 degrees. However, you should avoid adding fabric softener.
  • Drying: You should also avoid drying your shoes in a dryer. Instead, you should let them air dry.

For all care and cleaning instructions, you should read the manufacturer's instructions beforehand. This will prevent you from ruining your toe shoes.

Image source: Prokudina/ 123rf.com

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