Many misconceptions about what space you “should” have in front of your toes in shoes are spread and believed in. Here I go through the actual facts on the topic.


For some reason, maybe it’s from childhood where we learn that one “should have 1 cm in front of the big toe” or things like that, people are obsessed with how much space there is between the longest toes (usually big toe, but can also be other) and the internal front part of the shoes. And not only that, people often have a wrong idea of how much space there “should” be. So, time to clear things out.

Since the start of mass production of footwear, various things have been standardised according to some sort of “average” foot (though, this average foot may be different depending on where one lives and where shoes are produced, but for the topic of today we can conveniently enough say it’s more or less the same for everyone). So, for “dress shoes” with a medium round toe shape, the standard when mass production of shoes started around the 1900’s was to have two full UK/US sizes of space between toe and internal front part of the shoe. One size is 8,46 mm(1/3 inch), so there was “supposed” to be about 17 mm (2/3 inch) of space. This is about the same width as the thumb, hence, the “rule of thumb”. Now, back then feet in general were smaller, since feet have grown the past century today this is a bit larger, about 20 mm would be what the space “should be” for a “normal foot” in a “medium round toe” shoe (since thumbs have grown as well, the “rule of thumb” origin still applies though). This is what the lasts are developed for, in general.

Now, this “supposed standard” of how much space you have in front of the toe then varies depending on the type of shoe and its toe shape. A long narrow last with a pointy toe may have 40-50 mm, a blunt Budapester last just 10 mm, and both could still be the correct length-wise.

Either way, as I’ve written before, since also all feet are different and one can have longer or shorter toes, the measurement that really matters when it comes to length is the distance of the heel to the ball (the shoe widest point). A shoe’s flex point, where it’s made to be bent, should be in the same place as the ball of the foot, where the foot is made to be bent. To put it simple, the widest point of the foot should be placed at the widest point of the shoe. This is the same for all type of feet and all types of toe shapes, and is also much easier to examine than how much space there is in front of the toe, under the toe stiffener.