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The wrong shoes (too big, too small; too flimsy, stiff, or tall) are partly to blame for a host of foot problems. Switching to kinder, gentler styles is the first step toward relief. You can also ice, elevate, and take anti-inflammatories; in the longer run, orthotics—customized insoles prescribed by a podiatrist that realign the foot—may also help.

What a heel. Chronic stiletto wearers, who give the tendon at the back of their heels no chance to relax, often develop an inflammation known as Achilles tendinitis: There's an ouch every time the foot hits the ground.

Hitting a nerve. Cramming feet into narrow shoes can lead to neuromas, benign growths of nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes. The symptoms may be tingling and numbness in the ball of the foot or a sharp shooting pain.

A bumpy ride. Bunions are enlarged, misaligned big-toe joints: The bone at the toe's base protrudes outward instead of joining the toe bones, or phalanges, in a straight line. There may be a genetic component, but tight shoes are also a factor.

The hard stuff. The body's way of protecting itself against friction (such as that caused by too-small or too-big shoes) is to thicken the skin into calluses (on soles) and corns (on toes). Hoorfar warns against over-the-counter, acid-containing corn removers, which can "eat" healthy tissue.

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