How To Build a Toe Tent for Sensitive Feet out of PVC Pipe

Heh. The first time I typed the title, it read, “How to Buld a Toe Tent….”. Pam’s sensitive feet or no, PVC pipe or no, maybe I should have left it that way. Certainly would have made Googlers wonder, maybe enough to click on the link. Ya think?

Seriously, though, my wife’s feet have problems. Let me list the ways:

1. Osteoarthritis.

2. Plantar fasciitis.

3. Bullet shrapnel fragments in both feet and ankles. A guy once shot her, twice, .357 Magnum rusty home reloaded hollow points. That was more than 20 years ago…and she’s still walking.

4. Gout, the kind “only” men usually get. My redhead’s a high-testosterone chick.

5. Calcium fusion of one big toe joint. She kicked through a steel bathroom door once, when she was 26, rescuing a panicked (and screaming) gal the malfunctioning door mechanism had locked inside. Problem was, she hadn’t yet gone through martial arts training, hit the door toe-first.

6. The feet’s share of her total body fibromyalgia.

With all that going on, her feet are just a tad touchy. (Yes, I’m understating. Wildly.) As long as I’ve known her, heavy blankets have been a problem for her tootsies.

Today, 15 years and some months into our relationship, I finally did something about that. Researching “toe tents for sensitive feet” on the Internet was the first step. There were some cheap metal “blanket hangers” that looked absolutely worthless. A few other available designs looked a bit better…and then a page surfaced which showed several toe tent designs built from PVC pipe.

The owners of that website sell their end products. For several reasons, though, I rejected the idea of buying from them. Their contraptions all feature 1/2″ PVC and reinforcing crossbars which would present toe-hazards in themselves, their sizes were not meant for the 17″ deep latex mattress Pam uses, I could build for $10 what they were selling for $40, and that extra-thick mattress of Pam’s meant we could get away with using 1″ pipe.

There’s little point in listing the precise measurements of Pam’s new toe tent. They’re scaled to work with her specific bed, which is hardly “standard” by any stretch of the imagination.

But you might get an idea or two for your own construction from the photos below.

Building materials required:

    –15 feet (approx.) of 1″ PVC pipe

    –Two 45 degree elbows

    –A whole bag of 90 degree elbows

    –Purple PVC primer

    –Clear PVC glue

The first gathering of materials. Another stick of pipe and a pair of 45 degree elbows had to be added along the way.

The first gathering of materials. Another stick of pipe and a pair of 45 degree elbows had to be added along the way.

The cut pipe pieces. Each of the two upper sections had to be cut one more time to allow for the insertion of the 45 degree elbows.

The cut pipe pieces. Each of the two upper sections had to be cut one more time to allow for the insertion of the 45 degree elbows.

Oops. Got so involved, priming and gluing and such, that I forgot to take pictures during assembly until this point (see below). My bad.

Oversized (of necessity) toe tent almost assembled.

Oversized (of necessity) toe tent almost assembled.

The local wildlife–at least one chickadee–simply had to stop by, hanging out in the shadow of a nearby mesquite tree to size up the contraption. Not until the photo reached the computer screen did I notice the bright blue bit of trash lying on the ground beneath its tail.

Having the bird come in so close, to a range of no more than eight feet, was an honor. Local chickadees are usually mighty flighty, wary little things. Which makes sense. Were I that size, I’d be wary, too.

Project supervisor.

Project supervisor.

Two more 90 degree elbows and one crossbar later, the toe tent is completed. All that remains now is to clean it up a bit (since it was assembled outside on bare dirt to avoid getting too many glue fumes going in the house).

The completed King Kong toe tent.

The completed King Kong toe tent.

Next, removing the blankets from Pam’s bed–a simple process, since she was away from home for the day. Much safer for the husband. Less likely to be criticized for doing “it” the wrong way.

Note: The holes in the sheet are not because my wife’s husband is too cheap to buy her decent bedding. Gato cat simply likes to crawl under the covers…and chew.

Bed without toe tent.

Bed without toe tent.

How to install the PVC pipe toe tent? Just jam–uh, slip the bottom portion of the assembly in between the mattress and (in this case) the comforter padding the solid wood platform upon which the ultra-deep mattress rests.

With a thinner mattress, the 1″ pipe, especially at the elbows, might produce lumps to bother the sleeper. But with 17″ of latex, and at the foot end, that’s not an issue.

Toe tent installed.

Toe tent installed.

…and finally, a blanket is draped over the bed, toe tent and all.

A few details:

A. The angled blanket draping over the end would touch the toes of a tall person…but Pam is five feet even (if not less these days, thanks to osteoporosis).

B. My wife is a creature of routine. Changes can be traumatic for her at times, and adjustments take a while. Meaning, she was not comfortable with nothing touching her feet in bed. So she had me set up her top sheet and a light blanket the “normal” way, just keeping the heavier (brown) blanket up, up and away.

C. The “tent peak” looks in the photos like it’s wa-ay up there, but in fact it only clears the toes of an up-pointed Pam-foot by a few inches…and she has some restless nights.

D. When winter comes back around, we may need to buy a larger blanket for additional draping over the toe tent. But not until then.

Inital blanket drape test.

Inital blanket drape test.

Tent toe clearance.

Tent toe clearance.

Pam is sleeping now, or at least faking it really well. Her tootsies are tucked under the PVC pipe toe tent. It’s (of course) a good thing I was able to tackle this project while she was gone earlier in the day. Being a husband, I obviously can’t do much of anything right without female supervision when she happens to be in the vicinity.

Such as cleaning up a bit of loose cat hair. Apparently, if I don’t use Lysol wet wipes, I’ve failed the hair picker-upper test.

Not complaining, just explaining. Every married man out there knows whereof I speak. Tackle the in-home tasks while your honey is out gallivanting around; save the outside chores for when she’s parked in front of the TV.

In the morning, when she is parked in front of the TV, I’ll check to see what she thought of the toe tent as a sleeper helper. If there’s a problem with it, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, consider the procedure outlined here as at least one way to build (not “buld”) a toe tent for sensitive feet using PVC pipe.

How to tweak it to fit your own situation? Not a clue…but I’m betting you’ll figure it out.

Bonus moon photo.

Bonus moon photo.

21 thoughts on “How To Build a Toe Tent for Sensitive Feet out of PVC Pipe

  1. Hey ghostwriter… I can dig it ! I have painful neuropathy in my feet and blanket weight kept me awake. I had built a less complex version of your toe tent with pvc and then went hunting to see what else is already out there and found your version. I think I will insert the 45 degree fittings to gain a little cantilever. I had planned to patent mine but there is too much competition out there. I hope your wife has found relief and appreciates your efforts. Warren Oceanside, CA

  2. Good for you, Warren, and thanks for commenting. Judging by my wife, neuropathy in one’s feet is no fun whatsoever. Pam has indeed found relief, and yes, she definitely does appreciate my efforts. You’re right, too; there is plenty of toe tent competition out there. Must be a lot of touchy tootsies throughout the land.

  3. Twelve inches (1 foot). That’s an arbitrary length; I just eyeballed the contraption I was building and went with “what felt right”. The only requirement is that they need to be long enough to keep the top portion from trying to tip over.

  4. Many thanks! My guess was 12″ but wanted to be sure. I am building with 3/4″ schedule 40 pvc. The mattress is 10″ latex on a splt king adjustable bed. I can only go 24″ wide for the base to fit between mattress retainers bars. My plan is to glue up the base then dry fit the rest as I adapt the plan to fit our situation.

    I like your website and plan a lot of visits in the future.

  5. There you go, Ed. I would probably have used 3/4″ as well, except for 2 things: (1) I had plenty of 1″ lying around, and (2) I always overbuild if there’s any possible way to do it.

    Glad to hear you plan to stop back by on a regular basis. That’s definitely a good thing for a writer to hear. 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing your design. I installed it yesterday, eased it in while the lady was watching TV. We had been using a pillow set on its long edge which was hard to keep erect and would pack down. I put the tent support in and placed the pillow under it so it all felt the same to her. This morning I asked her how did you like the toe tent? She said “good that she didn’t even know I had put it in”. The big difference being that all was still in place this morning with no shifting.

    I glued up the base just leaving the upturned 90s open so I could put it in place and play around with riser and cantilever lengths. It does so well with no glue in those joints that I am thinking I will just drill pilots for 1/2″ sheet metal screws and just pin those joints for stability until we are sure that dimensions are OK (maybe forever if no problems crop up).

    Bottom line, I recommend this design to anyone that needs some toe space. It works and the price is right.

  7. Excellent, Ed. I’m particularly impressed that you slipped it into place without the recipient even being aware you’d done it. 🙂

  8. You’re a prince and a gentleman. Thank you for being so considerate of your wife like this and then for sharing your instructions. I be making one for myself to help with the fasciitis, tendonitis, and arthritis.

  9. Wonderful, Angela. Not the “prince and gentleman” part so much, but the fact that you’re making one for yourself.

    Do be the first time anyone’s ever called me a prince, though I can think of an ex-wife or two who might like to crown me. 🙂

  10. This looks like a great idea. I too have an extra thick latex mattress, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis all over. One of my biggest complaints, other than my hubby hogging my foot space in bed, is that the touch of my blankets, even though very light all year (yay, Florida!), make my feet cramp. I had been meaning to look this up for quite a while. Tonight, even though I’m very sleepy, I thought about it as soon as I went to bed. I immediately got up and did a Google search. So glad I found you. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Thanks for this idea. I just built one for my mother-in-law. She loves it!

    — Jon in Michigan

  12. Ah. Thanks. We had chickadees in Montana, which is likely the source (or at least the excuse) for my mistake.

  13. How would this work on king adjustable bed, when you raise the foot of bed wouldn’t the tent fall over?

  14. Rose, I suspect you’re right. It was never designed for an adjustable bed. Never crossed my mind.

  15. Rose and Ghost32, My toe tent was for a Reverie adjustable bed. The base legs of the toe tent are inserted between mattress and bed frame so all rise together.

  16. Ed: Thanks. I wasn’t picturing the setup correctly.
    KATHARINE: Missed seeing your comment earlier. My apologies. If both sleepers in a king sized bed need something like this, it would still be best to built it as a pair of singles rather than one wide unit. Reason: PVC bends fairly easily. Running a wide crosspiece across the top of a king sized bed would require a long pipe run and the center would sag over time.

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