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Big Toe Holes - It’s not the shoe! It’s you….

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

written by Lindsay @ Axis Podiatry - Feb 2023

As a runner myself I’m a member of lots of running related groups on different social media platforms and I often see runners complaining that their shoes have developed a hole caused by their big toe. They complain about the cost of the shoes and how ridiculous it is that their running shoes are now ruined….They sometimes even go back to the shop that sold them the shoes or to the manufacturers to complain about the hole and ask for a refund!

But here’s the thing… It’s actually more likely that it’s their toe that is the issue and not the shoes at all.

Yes a lot of running shoes have now become very lightweight and one way of keeping the weight down and for increased comfort was for the manufacturers to use softer, thinner materials for the uppers and this has highlighted the problem but its the biomechanics of those pesky big toes that causes the hole to develop.

Given that its now difficult to get a good pair of running shoes for much under £100 and the amount that some runners are spending on carbon plated super shoes (£200 – £300) then it makes sense to try and prevent these holes from developing in the first place. it could save a lot of money and prevent a decent pair of running shoes going to landfill unnecessarily.

From my perspective as a sports podiatrist even more importantly is educating the running population so that they understand that this could be an indication of a pathology of the foot and if ignored could be a sign of a more serious problem further down the line that could become symptomatic and cause a runner to have to stop what they love doing.

The 1st mtp joint should have a good range of movement when non weight bearing and weight bearing but the joint can become stiff and this can be minor stiffness which we call hallux limitus or complete stiffness which we call hallux rigidus. It can be functional or structural and its much easier to treat when its a mild functional problem and very difficult to do much about once its a very stiff arthritic joint. A sports podiatrist with a good knowledge of biomechanics would examine the joint in clinic and establish if there is enough range of movement for normal function and then advise accordingly. Callus developing around the big toe or the the 1st mtp joint is another sign that there is a pathology.

Basically if the 1st mtp joint does not bend as much as necessary then one way of the foot compensating is to hyperextend at the IP joint and this then causes a hole in the shoe.

A podiatrist would be able to carry out a full assessment and advise on the extent of the individual degree of pathology and then maybe recommend some strategies to help such as changing to certain styles of running shoes or maybe some exercises.

Orthotic insoles can be really useful in preventing the block at the 1st mtp joint if it is functional and isn’t already too stiff and this can prevent the problem from progressing and the hole in the shoe from developing.

For some runners they will still develop the hole but it may take longer to appear and for those spending a lot of money on their running shoes they may want to just protect their shoes and help them to last as long as possible.

There is now a great product on the market that I recommend to all of my serious runners that I know spend a small fortune on their shoe collection and especially to those I have seen in clinic with these issues.

It is a patch from trainer armour that you apply to the inside of the toe box, leave to dry for 24 hours and it protects the very area that can develop a hole and it increases the lifespan of your running shoes. It’s cheap and genius.

The patches are very thin and once applied the user can hardly feel them but they are really tough and tear resistant. It comes with its own applicator system which is really useful and means you can get it to sit in the right place.

I know I am going to be using the patches on all of my running shoes from now on….

If you want to buy the patches then go to and if you have any questions or would like to book in for a podiatry assessment then please feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading!

Lindsay @ Axis Podiatry

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