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Have Your Shoes Shaped Your Feet?
Why Foot Shaped Toe Boxes Are, Rightly, Taking Over

My own feet were always very narrow with squashed up toes from wearing tight fell shoes for 30 years. After 10 years of wearing more foot shaped shoes I now have much broader feet, with gaps between my toes and a lot more movement. Running (and other) shoes traditionally tend to be pointy… yet feet aren’t. The reason for this unfortunately is fashion and not function.

When we get customers coming into the shop who have been brought up in countries where they were able to run around in bare feet most of the time, their feet have a completely different shape to those of us who wore shoes. The two main characteristics are that the forefoot is broader and the toes have gaps between them and splay when walking or running. In these countries planta fasciitis, bunions, Morton’s Neuroma etc.. are unheard of. These countries tend to be those blessed with a warmer climate, as your feet would fall of running barefoot in Newcastle upon Tyne!

The solution here then is running shoes that are more ‘foot shaped’. (Yes it’s mad that shoes are not really foot shaped). Shoes with a rounded toe box that are therefore broader and not ‘pointy’. Northern Runner has two brands that make their shoes this shape, the most popular being Altra and American newcomers to Northern Runner; Topo.


When the toe box is this shape it allows the foot to function more naturally inside the shoe. When the foot is loaded on impact it spreads out further, stretching the planta fascia on the bottom of the foot. This absorbs shock and also gives you some propulsion, as the planta fascia acts like an elastic band ‘springing’ you off the floor.

In a lot of cases your feet will start this process slowly when switching to wearing a foot shaped shoe. If you have been wearing snug footwear then your feet will often become weak and less functional, in effect being bound in place. This sounds pretty bad, but the good news is that the body will happily revert to a more natural form over time.

Your first foot shaped shoes will feel very roomy, if too roomy! Start gradually by all means and give them time.. hundreds of customers regularly tell us how they’ve improved their running experience!

Foot Shaped + Low or Zero Drop

Both Topo and Altra shoes are ‘flatter’ than most other brands. This is not the same as not cushioned and uncomfortable!

A low or Zero Drop is used to promote a more midfoot landing, which allows the foot to be loaded correctly. This can take a bit of time to adjust to as well, so is it’s best to gradually increase the amount of time you spend in these shoes, alternating with your previous running shoes. Compared to actively trying to run on your forefoot, the low drop will naturally help because there just isn’t a high heel to promote a heel-first landing.

To start with you may run the same way as you always have but, your body will iron out the bad habits over time as you spend more time in this type of shoe. It’s best to start with the more cushioned low/Zero Drop shoes from these brands, as the foot is under less stress when learning how to revert to its natural movement. The result is potential less aches and pains as you’re adjusting.

Try going back.. once you have got used to a foot shaped shoe you will feel how tight and restrictive that old footwear is!



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