Here’s How To Stop Your Pinky Toe Rubbing In Your Shoes

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as spending time trying to pick the perfect pair of running shoes by testing a bunch out on the treadmill at the running store, only to find that once you actually wear the shoes, they are not as comfortable as they seemed.

One of the most common complaints about running shoes not fitting properly is finding that the pinky toe rubs on the inside of the shoe.

With significant rubbing of the pinky toe, you might even develop a pinky toe blister from running shoes or just a very painful hotspot.

So, what causes pinky toe shoe rubbing or pinky toe blisters and running shoes?

In this pinky toe rubbing shoe guide, we will discuss why pinky toe rubs on shoes, what causes pinky toe blisters running, and how to prevent running shoes hurting pinky toes or pinky toe running shoe pain.

We will cover: 

  • Why Does My Pinky Toe Hurt Running?
  • How to Stop Your Pinky Toe Rubbing In Your Shoes

Let’s get started!

A blister on a pinky toe.

Why Does My Pinky Toe Hurt Running?

There are actually several different causes of pinky toe pain running, not all of which are inherently isolated to issues with running shoe fit or even the pinky toe rubbing shoe walls or getting squished or cramped in the shoes.

For example, if you are supinating excessively at push off and weight-bearing too much through the pinky toe instead of the big toe, you might have pinky toe pain from running that has nothing to do with your pinky toe rubbing inside your running shoe.

However, for the purposes of this guide, we will be focusing on the causes of running shoes hurting pinky toes or pinky toenails while running or walking, not biomechanical issues leading to pinky toe pain running or walking.

Let’s get into the possible causes:

A runner tying their shoe.

#1: Running Shoes Don’t Fit Right

Ultimately, the most common reason for a pinky toe blister from running shoes or shoes rubbing the pinky toe when you run or walk is due to a poor fit in the forefoot of the running shoe or walking shoe.

Most people assume that if your pinky toe rubs inside the shoe, the shoe is too tight or narrow in the toe box, but this isn’t always the case.

Several shoe fit issues can cause the pinky toe to rub the inner wall of the running shoe or the end of the shoe.

The shoe can be too short in length, too narrow in the toe box width, or too short/tight in the height (from the insole to the inner surface of the top mesh upper.

Perhaps surprisingly, pinky toe shoe rubbing can also be caused if the running shoe is actually too wide or too big overall.

A blister on a pinky toe.

#2: Curly Pinky Toe or Tailor’s Bunion

Aside from running shoes not fitting well, there are a couple of structural or anatomical causes of running shoes rubbing pinky-toe skin or running shoes squishing pinky toes.

If you’re getting a pinky toe blister running or walking, you might have a curly pinky toe, a medical condition adductovarus, or a pinky toe bunion (tailor’s bunion).

This means that your pinky toe sort of juts out of the side where the “knuckle” in the middle of the pinky toe is.

The pinky toe, which is known as the fifth toe, has a couple of bones that articulate off of the fifth metatarsal in the foot and form the toe itself. 

The “knuckle“ or joint between the very distal tip of the fifth metatarsal and the base of the fifth metatarsal should point up and down so that your toes flex downward and the bulbous part of the pinky toe joint “tents” straight up towards the ceiling.

However, if you have fifth toe adductovarus, or this curly pinky toe, instead of the toe joint pointing up and the tip of your toe curling down towards the ground when you flex your toe, the toe portion of the fifth metatarsal is offset to the side or skews laterally instead of up and down.

A bandaid on a pinky toe.

If you envision gripping your toes as if you were trying to scrunch a towel or hold a marble under your pinky toe, your toes should flex or grip so that your pinky toe forms a little mountain or inverted letter U with the tip of your toe towards the ground and its knuckle portion joint jutting up.

With a curly fifth toe, instead of having an inverted U shape when you try to grip your toe, the toe curls out to the side like a backward letter C so that the tip of your pinky faces the ring finger toe, and the knuckle points out away from your foot rather than straight up.

Ultimately, if one or both of your feet display this adductovarus condition, the joint in the middle of your pinky toe will be prominently pushed to the outer edge of your foot, making your pinky toe rub the shoe on the inside along this hard bone where the toe can be quite sensitive.

You can develop a blister on your pinky toe and may experience pain in the toe joint because the joint will not be lined up properly when you extend your toes at push-off while running or walking.

A runner tying their shoe.

#3: Poor Shoe Flexibility

The construction and materials of the shoe itself can also contribute to pinky toe rubbing in shoes.

Particularly if the upper knit material is not very flexible or stretchy, the shoe may compress or squeeze your pinky toe even if the fit of the shoe last (or shape of the shoe) is relatively appropriate for your foot size and shape.

Again, as with getting running shoes that fit properly, bigger or looser and stretchier isn’t always better.

If the depth of the running shoe is too significant for your foot or the upper is not snug enough against your foot, your pinky toe or foot, in general, can experience “bell clapping “ or pistoning inside the shoe.

This is basically where your toes have too much freedom of movement because they are not constrained by the width, height, or length of the shoe at all.

This allows the forefoot and toes to flop freely around or clap around the inside of the shoe, like the attached metal piece inside a handbell that causes the inner walls of the bell to make noise.

This can lead to excessive rubbing, blisters, or repetitive micro-smashing of the tip or side of your pinky toe along the inner edge, top, or end of your shoe as you run or walk.

A close up of a person's shoes and socks.

#4: Wearing the Wrong Running Socks

Many runners make the common mistake of investing time, money, and care into selecting the best running shoes and then assume that any breathable athletic socks will be fine.

If you have a seam in your running sock on or near the pinky toe, it can put extra pressure between your toe and the shoe, which can cause skin irritation or friction blisters.

While some runners can get away with running in cheap athletic socks, it is almost always worth the investment for runners to buy breathable, moisture-wicking running socks.

How to Stop Your Pinky Toe Rubbing In Your Shoes

Ultimately, stopping your pinky toe from rubbing in your shoes depends on the cause.

Structural issues with your foot may require orthotics or working with a podiatrist or physical therapist.

For running socks, we highly recommend Smartwool running socks. Merino wool is incredibly soft, fights odor, and helps regulate your skin temperature, whether keeping your feet warm in the winter or cool in hot weather.

A close up of a person's running shoes.

By providing excellent thermoregulation, the friction and sweat buildup in your running shoes is minimized. 

What makes Smartwool running socks some of the best running socks is that they use strategic zones of cushioning and offer tons of options so that you can get the exact fit and feel that you want. 

As mentioned, improper seam placement is also a common cause for pinky toe rubbing or blisters on pinky toes from running shoes. 

Almost all of the Smartwool Running socks have a seamless toe or use strategic placement of any seams in the socks, so this can cut down on the risk of pinky toe blisters or rubbing of the pinky toe. 

In terms of shoe fit, an increasing number of running shoes are made with a sock-like knit mesh upper that helps stretch and conform to your foot.

This provides enough structure to hold your foot in place without compressing or squishing any of your toes or impeding your freedom for natural toe splay (the spreading of the ball of the foot and the toes) when you weight bear while running or walking.

A person tying their running shoe.

The optimal running shoe fit with the upper portion of the shoe is a relatively intimate contact with a soft, stretchy, pliable, and seamless sock liner knit upper that provides gentle guidance to hold your foot in place without tapping down your toes.

In a way, the upper mesh or knit material of the shoe is kind of like a seatbelt to help keep your foot in the right position without restricting movement—sort of “set it and forget it.”

For proper shoe width, the ball of your foot should not feel like it’s being compressed or squeezed in the shoes. Shoes that are too tight may not only cause pinky toe rubbing but also metatarsalgia or Morton’s neuroma.

In terms of proper running shoe length, most experts recommend having at least a thumbnail’s width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. 

This may be about 1/2 to 1 inch or (1.5-2.5 cm) of added length, depending on personal preference, how much your feet tend to swell, and the time of day you usually run.

You can learn about how running shoes should fit here and how to pick a good pair of running shoes here.

A variety of different colored running shoes.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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