There are many foot problems that are known to result from wearing high heels. Most stem from the fact that they crowd the toes, force the body's weight onto the ball of the foot and disrupt the body's alignment. The more common problems that come from wearing high heels include:
High heels in themselves do not usually cause bunions – they’re mostly a result of hereditary abnormalities in foot structure. But over time, wearing pointed-toe high heels can make bunions worse. Only surgery can correct this often painful problem.
Because high heeled shoes squash the toes together, they can contribute to hammertoes. This deformity occurs when the second, third, fourth or fifth toes become bent, like a claw. This can cause constant shoe friction, leading to painful corns. Severe hammertoes may require surgery to relieve pain.
Haglund's deformity ("pump bump")
Haglund’s deformity is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel. Because it rubs against the shoe, it can often lead to painful bursitis, which is an inflammation of the bursa (a fluid-filled sac between the tendon and bone). The condition is often called “pump bump” because the rigid backs of pump-style shoes can create pressure that aggravates the enlargement when walking. However, any shoes with a rigid back can cause this irritation. It can also lead to blisters, bursitis or Achilles tendonitis.
Pointed-toe and high heeled shoes are the most common reasons women develop a painful neuroma(pinched nerve). High heeled shoes can cause the toes to be forced into the toe box, which can compress and swell nerves in the foot, especially between the third and fourth toes. Neuroma symptoms appear gradually and include tingling, burning, numbness or pain. Without treatment, a neuroma can lead to permanent nerve damage, making it difficult to walk without severe, shooting pain.
High heels increase the risk for ankle sprains. These occur when ligaments that connect bones together are stretched or torn. Left untreated, sprains can lead to chronic ankle instability and potential arthritis.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never wear high heels. The following tips will minimise the risk of the common foot problems above:
- Avoid shoes with pointed toes.
- Avoid heels taller than two inches.
- Don’t walk too far in high heels
- Alternate shoe types on a day-to-day basis
- Recognise that foot pain is a warning sign.