Toe spring is a toe-deforming shoe feature present in most shoes, including athletic shoes. Toe spring is the elevation of your shoe’s toe box above the ground or supporting surface. The current industry standard for toe spring for most types of footwear is 15 degrees. This means that most shoes hold, or immobilize, your toes in an unnatural, extended position.
Why Immobilization is Problematic
This immobilization is problematic because your toes function on a system of balanced tendon pulling. In the ideal scenario, there is a perfect balance between the tendons that pull on your toes from above and below. The tendons on the top of your toes can, after years of wearing conventional shoes that hold your toes in an extended position, gain a pulling advantage over those tendons on the bottom and sides of your toes. This imbalance, when combined with the injurious effects of heel elevation and tapering toe boxes, can cause various toe deformities, collectively known as crooked toes, as well as certain lower leg and knee problems.
Focal Pressure on the Ball of the Foot
Wearing a shoe that includes heel elevation, rigid soles, and toe spring means placing an extraordinary amount of pressure on the ball of your foot. This focal pressure can lead to many different ball of foot problems, including neuromas. A shoe that is completely flat from heel to toe (aka "zero drop") helps spread bodyweight forces across your entire forefoot surface, reducing the burden on the ball of your foot and the sensitive structures (including nerves and blood vessels) that pass through this foot region.
How to Remove Toe Spring
Most shoes, even healthy ones, appear to have at least some degree of toe spring when observed in isolation (i.e., when nobody is wearing the shoe). It is exceedingly rare to find footwear with absolutely no toe spring. A small amount of toe spring present in shoes with flexible soles is not overly problematic, as this toe spring often disappears when the soles are compressed during weight-bearing activity. You can remove toe spring from many shoes by folding the shoe onto itself (sole of the forefoot touching or bent toward the sole of the heel) and placing it under a heavy object (such as a bookcase) for 24 to 48 hours. Most of the toe spring should be gone when you retrieve your shoe at the end of this period.