Tips to Avoid Foot Pain from High Heels
But when you add high heels in to the equation, podiatrist Stuart Mogul, DPM, says pain can quickly escalate to damage.
"In addition to restricting the foot, you are also increasing the weight on the area that is restricted, so you're not only crushing your toes, but you're crushing them and then putting weight on them, and that's a problem," says Mogul.
Among the most common problems he sees are painful, aching bunions—those bony protrusions that usually pop up at the base of the big toe and distort the shape of the foot.
"High heels don't cause bunions, but they sure can aggravate them. Both the heel height and the point of the shoe can play a role," says Mogul.
Moreover, he says some women who have bunions also have a displaced bone on the bottom of the big toe joint, which changes the way the foot "tracks" or acts during motion.
"If the foot is then placed in a high heel, and pitched forward, the pressure on these bones increases and bunion pain grows worse," he says.
While integrating lower heels into your wardrobe can help some, often the best solution is bunion surgery to straighten the bone.
If you're wearing high heels on a daily basis, it's likely you've already experienced two more common problems: corns and calluses. These thickened layers of dead skin usually occur on the toes or sides of the foot and are actually the body's way of defending your feet against assault. Only in this case, says Morin, your shoes are the enemy.
"When you start developing corns and callus, or even ingrown toe nails, pressure from shoes that don't quite fit is often the problem," says Morin.
Other times it can be the result of a "hammertoe"—a condition that causes the bone of the affected toe to curl under, leaving the top to rub against the shoe. When that shoe is a high heel, says Morin, problems and pain are intensified.
While wearing a lower-heel shoe can help some, the solution may require a surgical procedure that helps straighten the hammertoe.