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01-12-2020 | Review | Uitgave 1/2020 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2020

Toe gaps and their assessment in footwear for people with diabetes: a narrative review

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2020
Petra Jones, Sicco A. Bus, Melanie J. Davies, Kamlesh Khunti, David Webb
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-020-00439-3.

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Adequate footwear fit is critical in preventing diabetes-related foot ulcers. One important element is the toe gap, the difference between foot length and internal footwear length available to the foot. We summarised the literature on toe gaps in studies assessing footwear worn by people with diabetes, the methods used to measure both foot length and internal footwear length and identify ambiguities which may impact on toe gap assessment in clinical practice, and suggest pragmatic solutions.


The Google Scholar database was searched to April 2020 for peer-reviewed studies using keywords related to incorrectly fitting or ill-fitting and diabetes, foot and ulcer which returned 979 results. Included studies within this narrative review encompassed toe gap measurement to assess footwear worn by people with diabetes.


A total of eight studies were included after full paper review. Toe gap ranges as used in assessments of footwear worn by people with diabetes vary, with a minimum of 1.0–1.6 cm and a maximum of 1.5–2.0 cm, as do methods of measuring internal footwear length. Only three published studies suggested possible measuring devices.


Toe gap ranged as used when assessing footwear fit in people with diabetes vary and a gold standard device for internal footwear length measurement has yet to emerge. International guidelines provide welcome standardisation, but further research is needed to evaluate both the effect of toe gap ranges upon pressure, plantar stress response and ulceration and available measuring devices to facilitate development of toe gap measurement protocols that may further enhance consistency in practical assessments.

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