A Minimalist Miracle? Correct Toes May Treat and Cure Foot Pain Without Surgery

A Minimalist Miracle? Correct Toes May Treat and Cure Foot Pain Without Surgery

Do you suffer from foot or ankle pain? Do you wish you could treat your foot ailments naturally, without surgery or expensive drugs? If so, then the folks at Northwest Foot and Ankle may have a solution for you.

Located just north of the Soft Star workshop in nearby Portland, Oregon, Northwest Foot and Ankle is spearheaded by sports podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM. Dr. McClanahan has devoted his practice to treating foot problems by restoring natural foot function (i.e., barefoot movement). As an avid barefoot athlete himself, the good doctor has developed and documented successful methods to help people recover from foot pain simply by encouraging their feet to move like nature intended.

While some individuals may see improvement from foot problems simply by spending more time barefoot or in minimalist shoes, most people in our culture have worn conventional shoes for many decades with the result of deformed feet and weakened muscles. Although surgery was once considered the only option to these ailments, Dr. McClanahan has developed a much simpler solution.


A Minimalist Miracle? Correct Toes May Prevent, Treat and Cure Foot Injuries Without Surgery


Correct Toes are silicone toe spacers that may not look like much, but pack quite a punch. Dr. McClanahan invented these spacers by testing them on his own feet, and the results were undeniable. Correct Toes work to gradually restore feet to their natural position, and the doctor's research has shown this to have a positive impact on a wide range of foot ailments, including the following:

  • Bunions
  • Tailor's Bunions
  • Hammertoes
  • Hallux Limitus/Rigidus
  • Ingrown Toenail
  • Heel Pain
  • Morton's Neuroma
  • Capsulitis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Shin Splints
  • Runner's Knee
  • and more...

Unlike other toe spacers on the market, the lightweight silicone design of Correct Toes allows them to be used for walking and running after the initial adjustment phase (they're a favorite running accessory for Michael Sandler, bestselling author of Barefoot Running and Barefoot Walking). They also come with instructions for how you can customize or trim them yourself to improve fit or target specific foot conditions.

When we discovered this product, Soft Star co-owner Tricia decided to try them out herself, followed by several of our shoemaking elves. We liked them so much we decided to sell them with our shoes. We're proud to say you can now purchase Correct Toes directly from the Soft Star website!

A Minimalist Miracle? Correct Toes May Prevent, Treat and Cure Foot Injuries Without Surgery


The following excerpt, taken from the Northwest Foot and Ankle website, describes in greater detail how Correct Toes work, as well as the the medical philosophy of Dr. McClanahan. But first, here's a little disclaimer—remember, we're elves, not doctors:

Please note: the following medical claims are made by Northwest Foot and Ankle and may not necessarily reflect the views of Soft Star Shoes. Our staff is not qualified to give medical advice regarding Correct Toes or foot health. If you have any medical questions about Correct Toes or foot problems, we recommend contacting Northwest Foot and Ankle directly (503-243-2699 or [email protected])



About Correct Toes

from www.nwfootankle.com

Barefoot vs. Shoe-Wearing

In some parts of the world, people consistently wear minimal footwear, either going barefoot or using flip-flops and sandals. A very small percentage of this population suffers from foot problems. In the industrialized world however, where narrow and rigid footwear is the norm, the occurrence of foot, ankle, and musculoskeletal problems is substantially higher. What is the reason for this disparity?


Natural Foot Shape & Function

The human foot is designed such that the toes are spread and extended. This allows for optimal balance and stride. In societies where mainly flip-flops or sandals are used, foot integrity is maintained through life and foot problems are avoided. In industrialized societies however, the foot’s natural shape changes over time. The toes become elevated and pinched together, resulting in weakened flexor muscles combined with overly tight extensors. Subsequently, natural gait and balance are compromised. The main culprit is rigid footwear. The vast majority of footwear in the industrialized world elevates the heel above the forefoot (ball of foot), bends the toes upward (known as toe spring), and squeezes the toes together. Over time, this deforms the foot, leading to a host of foot problems, gait abnormalities, musculoskeletal pathologies.


A Minimalist Miracle? Correct Toes May Prevent, Treat and Cure Foot Injuries Without Surgery


The long-held conventional podiatric view is that the feet are inherently misshaped, and they need to be corrected with the use of orthotics or surgeries. Where these methods fail, pain is to be managed by anti-inflammatory drugs. Dr. Ray McClanahan is a podiatric physician and avid athlete who challenges this viewpoint. He has discovered, through extensive literature research and years of clinical practice, that the best way to treat most foot problems is by allowing the foot to function exactly as nature intended. Dr. Ray’s main approach with his patients is teaching about foot’s innate ability to walk and run with a perfect gait.

He demonstrates how most shoes on the market damage the foot shape, thereby compromising gait. He then shows how returning the feet to their natural shape eliminates existing foot problems and prevents new ones from arising. This is done using a Correct Toes spacer, which spreads the toes to their natural and correct position. This improves proprioception, which then allows the brain to better promote balance and optimal muscle function. Finally, Dr. Ray educates patients on choosing appropriate shoes that provide a flat surface and sufficient room for the toes to spread, thus allowing the gait to occur as nature intended. Clinical experience has shown again and again that returning the foot to its natural state treats most foot problems, and by extension, many musculoskeletal problems.


Examples of positive outcomes with the use of Dr. Ray’s Correct Toes:

Correction of: bunions, hallux limitus and rigidus, tailor’s bunions, corns, ingrown toenails, heel pain, plantar fasciosis, neuromas, capsulitis, lower leg pain, and runner’s knee. No surgery or medications required!

  1. Better balance in athletes, Parkinson’s patients, and elderly.
  2. Decreased injury rates in athletes, due to allowing the body to make better use of natural physiological adaptations that are hampered by current footwear available to athletes.
  3. Increased performance in athletes (especially walkers and runners) by promoting foot positions that scientific studies have shown to have a 4 to 5% performance edge.
  4. Improved strength and flexibility of the toes. This enhances proprioception, and subsequently the brain signals the body to move forward more naturally.
  5. Less osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative arthritis), which currently plagues a majority of senior citizens, as well as a high percentage of the younger population.

We hope you find this information interesting and useful! Thanks for reading, and happy healing!

Shop Correct Toes


  1. Steph W.
    I've been a Soft Star customer for several years, having purchased seven pairs in total now (for shame!). I have also used Correct Toes for over a year, having found them independently of Soft Star to treat my hallux valgus (AKA bunions) and hallux rigidus that I believe was caused or exacerbated by 12 years in ballet from age three to 15, plus shoes that were tight in the toe box (a "narrow" size due to my having narrow heels).

    Soft Star Shoes and Correct Toes are absolutely the only things that have worked for me. I now live pain free on a daily basis, with the odd, occasional pang from the big toe on my left foot. In 2009, I was nearly hobbled. I could not walk without constant, terrible pain. I read Born to Run, which kicked off other research. I stopped wearing any and all heels, switched to minimalist shoes, did (some) Kelly Starrett mobility WOD foot work on myself, and now live a normal, pain free life. This was the opposite of what multiple podiatrists said I should do. They told me to wear stiff soled shoes (like Naot and Wolky, to name just two) and to limit my foot movement. I listened to them only to find my pain the same and worse, and my remaining movement growing more limited. Minimalist shoes, circulation and movement have all but solved my foot problems.

    I post this here only so others can read your post and know that, at least for one person, Soft Star + Correct Toes is a winning combination.
  2. Elf Martin
    Great story, Steph! Thanks so much for sharing it.
  3. Carla
    Love my Dash Runamoc and my Correct Toes! I wish you would design a Dash Runamoc that I could wear WITH Correct Toes. Maybe an alternate style with a big round toe box?
    1. Elf Martin
      You're in luck, Carla! It just so happens that we're developing that product right now!
  4. Andrew
    Any further news on the development of Dash Runamoc that accommodates Correct Toes??
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Andrew. Most people find our current Dash RunAmoc accommodates Correct Toes very well, especially if you order the wide width. There are, of course, some wide feet out there that need a little more room and our new sole shape should take care of that. It's still in the early testing phases. No ETA yet.
  5. EJ
    Hi there-

    What are the reviews on Correct Toes helping Morton's Neuroma? I'm an avid runner, but have had so stop due to foot pain after only a few miles because of a neuroma in my left foot. I have orthotics, but those haven't helped too much.

    Also, can these be used with good running shoes (not minamalist)? I have extremely flat feet and need arch and ankle supporting shoes.

    Any information would be appreciated! Looking for a solution that doesn't involve surgery or injections. Thanks!
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi EJ. We haven't heard much about this from our customers, but I'm a runner who developed what I believe to be Morton's Neuroma in one foot last year. I felt it most while running or walking on flat surfaces. I started wearing Correct Toes and the pain disappeared almost immediately. After several months of wearing them steadily I can now go several days at a time without wearing them and feel no pain. The pain only returns after extended periods on very flat surfaces, but I just put the Correct Toes back on for a little bit and all is good again. I can't promise they'll have the same effect for you, but I think it was the best solution I could have found because it was fast and saved me a lot of money in doctor's visits.

      Correct Toes are flexible enough that you can run in them, as long as you have a shoe with a wide enough toe box. That may be difficult to find with shoes that have arch support since most shoes that are wide enough are likely to be a minimalist design. Dr. McClanahan also warns that arch supports will negate the effects of Correct Toes. I can't make any diagnosis about your personal condition (don't know enough about it and not a doctor), but we frequently hear from flat-footed customers who think they need arch support, only to find that a careful transition to minimalist shoes strengthens their arches and eliminates that need. You can find arch-strengthening exercises on this post:


      For an expert opinion and advice, we recommend consulting Dr. McClanahan's websites, or contacting his staff:


      Good luck!

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