What Are the Effects of Wearing Tight Shoes?

Nothing ruins a good day more than aching feet! Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence since many people don’t even realize they’re wearing shoes that are too tight.

Remember, your feet hold your entire body weight, so choosing shoes that fit you properly is in your best interest!

But what if you are wearing the wrong size? What are the effects of wearing tight shoes?

Can they hurt your feet or lead to long-term problems? Here’s what we know about too-tight shoes and their effect on your feet.

How Do You Know If Your Shoes Are Too Tight?

If you aren’t used to paying attention to your feet, you might not even be able to tell if your shoes are too tight! However, taking notice of these things can help you avoid falling into the trap of wearing too-tight shoes.

If your toes are pinching together and can’t splay naturally, your shoes are too small. They’re also too tight for you if you can feel pressure on the sides of your forefoot, which could lead to you developing bunions over time.

Of course, if you experience pain in the foot or the toes or you can feel the sides or front of the shoes against your foot, then you know that it’s too tight.

What Are the Effects of Wearing Tight Shoes?

If you’re wearing shoes that are too tight regularly, it can result in several different foot conditions.

While these can be considered signs of shoes that are too tight, in most cases, they’re the effects of wearing tight shoes, so it’s best to pay attention and make sure you get properly fitting shoes before these develop.

Ingrown Toenails

This painful condition occurs when the sharp edge of your toenail grows into the skin. It’s often a result of your shoes pressing on the nail and forcing it to grow downwards instead of straight out.

An ingrown toenail can be extremely painful. It often comes with tenderness, redness, and swelling; unfortunately, your shoes’ warm, moist environment can easily make them infected.

To avoid ingrown toenails from your shoes, make sure you’re wearing shoes that don’t place pressure on the nails when you stand or walk. There should be enough space in the shoe for your toes to wiggle without hitting the front or sides of the shoe.

Blisters

Blisters are a common foot condition, and they can make walking or running very unpleasant. They often occur at the heel but can also develop on the toes, especially the fifth toe and the side of the big toe.

Blisters happen when there’s friction between your skin and the material of the shoe. When your shoes are too tight, there’s more friction, making blisters more likely.

While they’re not difficult to treat, they can be annoying and lead to you changing your gait for a few days as they heal.

Black Toenails

Black toenails are caused by blood collecting under the toenail, also known as a subungual hematoma. The pressure of the shoes on the toenail causes the blood vessels underneath it to break open, leading to blood collecting under the nail.

They can be intensely painful and may be accompanied by swelling, severe pressure underneath the nail, and redness around the toe. The nail remains discolored and will most likely eventually fall off.

If you enjoy wearing open-toed shoes, you may be unhappy with how this makes your toenails look!

Corns/Calluses

Constant pressure and friction on certain parts of the foot—exacerbated when your shoes are too tight—can make those areas of your feet thick and hard.

These are known as calluses or corns. They may be painful or sensitive to the touch, which means when your feet are back in tight shoes, they can cause pain or discomfort.

You can get corn plasters, which help to relieve pressure on the area and protect it from more friction. But this may not alleviate pain associated with the calluses, especially if you continue to wear shoes that are too tight.

Athlete’s Foot

Athletes foot is most often associated with going barefoot in unsanitary areas, but it’s possible to get it if your shoes are too tight. When your shoes are too tight, your feet cannot breathe, and sweat can’t escape.

This means that if you’re wearing your shoes for a long period of time, the inside environment is perfect for bacteria to develop, which could lead to athletes foot. It’s itchy, painful, and altogether unpleasant.

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is the general term for pain in the ball of the foot. You may feel pressure, pain, or even like the ball of your foot is swollen. It’s often caused by wearing shoes with a toe box that’s too tight, as it places pressure on the sides of the forefoot.

Multiple conditions can fall under the umbrella term of metatarsalgia, including sesamoiditis, fat pad atrophy, and MTP joint pain.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is another condition that technically falls under metatarsalgia. It occurs when the nerve between the third and fourth toe in the ball of the foot becomes inflamed, causing a noticeable lump.

As this lump grows, it begins to place pressure on the tissues around it, leading to increased inflammation and a higher level of pain. You may also experience a sensation like there’s a pebble in your shoe, adding discomfort to the pain.

In most cases, Morton’s neuroma is treated with a change in footwear, lifestyle changes, pain medication, and on rare occasions, surgery.

Bunions

Bunions happen when the bone at the base of your big toe begins to protrude outward, causing the appearance of a bony lump on the inside of your foot. At the same time, your big toe starts to point toward your other toes.

In a nutshell, bunions are caused by the big toe bone moving out of alignment. This can happen when your shoes are too tight in the toe box and end up squishing your toes together, forcing the big toe to move in ways it isn’t supposed to.

The bunion may be tender to the touch, swollen, painful, and red. Bunions can be hereditary or develop due to arthritis, but tight shoes can speed up their development or make them worse.

Hammer Toe/Mallet Toe/Claw Toe

These three conditions are different things, but they all happen similarly.

When your shoes are too tight, it places pressure on the toes and may cause them to bend unnaturally. Over time, the ligaments in the toe weaken, and the toe can no longer straighten properly.

Hammer toes bend at the middle joint, mallet toes bend at the first joint—closest to the nail—and claw toes bend at the joint closest to the rest of the foot. In some cases, you may also develop crossover or overlapping toes, which is when one toe begins to move over another.

All of these conditions develop when there’s no space in the toe box for your toes to straighten. Overlapping toes are generally caused by the toe box being too tight across the forefoot.

They can all cause pain, a change in your gait, and even pain in your joints as you alter how you walk.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a result of nerve damage. It presents strange sensations in the feet due to the compression of nerves.

It’s most common in diabetics but can occur in others. Tight shoes can compress the nerves in the feet, and this can cause problems with feelings, not only in those with diabetes.

This not only causes numbness, pins and needles, and strange pains but can also lead to blisters and other damage that isn’t even felt. This makes it easier for infection to set in.

Pain In Other Parts of the Body

When your shoes are too tight, it can cause you to unconsciously change the way you walk. This means your weight is unevenly distributed, leading to pressure on parts of your feet that aren’t used to it.

It could also lead to a misalignment of the foot joint. When the joints in the feet are misaligned, it causes misalignment up the kinetic chain, which could place pressure on the ankles, knees, and hips.

Wearing tight shoes could lead to knee pain, hip pain, and even lower back aches and pains.

How to Size Your Shoes Correctly

Shop for Shoes In the Afternoon (if you’re trying them on)

If you’re trying the shoes on, shop in the afternoon. At this point of the day, your feet are swollen, which means you’ll be trying the shoes in at the point where your feet are the largest.

This guarantees a good fit at all times—when your feet are swollen and when they’re normal size. Rather than shopping when your feet are normal and finding your new shoes too tight in the afternoon when your feet swell.

Get Your Feet Properly Measured

You can get your feet properly measured at almost any shoe store, giving you the measurement in inches or centimeters. When you know this, instead of just your size, you’re likely to buy the right size rather than simply choosing the brand’s size that’s your usual size.

Brands vary slightly in their own sizing, but if you look at the inch/centimeter measurement, you can’t go wrong.

Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to get your feet measured at least once a year. They can change as we age and or when we get injured and heal from those injuries.

Get the Right Arch Support

The wrong arch support will mean that your feet will likely fall inwards when walking or running. This causes too much rotation of the knee, hip, and rest of the leg, leading to injury or pain.

Make sure you’re wearing shoes with the right arch support. If you overpronate—your feet fall inwards on each step—you need shoes that provide support in the medial side to prevent that rotation.

Use a Shoe Stretcher to Widen Shoes

You can always try using a shoe stretcher like the Topsome Shoe Stretcher, which is easy to use and can help to widen the shoes that you’re wearing. Just insert it into the shoe and turn the handle five or six times to stretch the shoe, and leave it to stand for around 12 hours.

You’ll need to make sure you stretch each shoe quite similarly. Also, many shoe stretchers come with only one in a set, so you may need to do each shoe separately. The good news is that most of them allow you to stretch specific parts of the shoe using special plugs, which means you can relieve pain in specific areas.

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www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/ingrown-toenail

Harvard Health Publishing. “Morton’s Neuroma – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 5 Dec. 2018,
www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/mortons-neuroma-a-to-z 

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Bunions – OrthoInfo – AAOS.” Aaos.org, 2014,
www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/bunions 

Weatherford, MD, FAAOS, Brian M. “Hammer Toe – OrthoInfo – AAOS.” Www.orthoinfo.org, 1 Nov. 2020,
www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/hammer-toe 

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy? | Cancer-related Side Effects. (n.d.). Www.cancer.org.
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