High Heel Pain and High Fashion: 3 Ways Red Carpet Shoes Kill Your Feet & Ankles

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Did you watch the Emmy’s last night? Many people in our office enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the annual awards show — although, admittedly, we cringe looking at some of the shoes walking down the red carpet!

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We give kudos to Malin Akerman, star of ABC’s Trophy Mom, when she admitted at the 10 p.m. after-party that her feet were actually feeling pretty okay. “I wore comfortable shoes,” she explained. “You just can’t see them!” Long formal dresses do make it easier to dress in comfort fearlessly. In this blog, we discuss three hazards of wearing high heels that sacrifice comfort for fashion.

Bunions

About 39% of women and 38% of men suffer from bunions, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School, Hebrew SeniorLife and the Institute for Aging Research. So, clearly, bunions aren’t just about wearing high heel shoes. (We’re pretty sure the 39% of men suffering from bunions weren’t all cross-dressers anyhow!) The Framingham Foot Study indicated that there is a genetic component at work. However, high heel lovers like Victoria Beckham, Uma Thurman and Katie Holmes certainly don’t do themselves any favors by wearing sky-high heeled shoes at every event they attend. Ice, cortocosteroid injections, and over-the-counter pain relief medication can take off the edge, but surgery is typically the only way to treat painful bunions successfully.

Ankle Tendonitis

Ankle tendonitis can result from “pressure caused by too-high heels,” rheumatologist Dr. Sukanya Pachaidee told USA Today. The instability of high heel shoes cause the ankle to wobble and the heel to rotate inward to maintain balance. This puts undue stress on the tendons, causing severe pain. Fortunately, most patients will heal without surgery. We recommend using a CAM Walker or ankle brace, depending on the severity of the pain, and resting. Periodic physical therapy appointments to strengthen the tendons is also important. We have seen some success in using platelet-rich plasma to speed up healing.

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Nerve Damage

High heel shoes — especially ones with pointy toes — can cause nerve damage. Many people find that the change in position of the spine puts pressure on nerves in the back that radiate pain down the legs and to the foot. Patients often express concern after experiencing numbness in their toes a full week after dancing in heels all night. One type of nerve damage is called a “neuroma.” Usually, resting your feet and taking anti-inflammatory medication provides some comfort. In rare cases, surgery to remove perpetually swollen tissue or release a pinched nerve may be necessary.

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The Bottom Line:

Yes, high heels look fantastic! And no, award ceremonies like The Emmy’s wouldn’t be the same without them! But for everyday trucking around town, two-inch heels with a wedge sole and soft back provide better stability if you can’t get away with wearing runners at work. Look for heels with even weight distribution like a platform and better arch support.

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