Foot Health

Pain-free high heels

Among young women, wearing high-heeled shoes is commonplace and a right of passage. Millions of women wear high heels almost every day and they have varying effects on the feet and body. The American Podiatric Medical Association surveyed 503 women about their high heel habits and found 72 percent of women wear high-heeled shoes (39 percent wear heels daily, while 33 percent wear them less often). Fifty-nine percent report toe pain as a result of wearing uncomfortable shoes; 54 percent report pain in the ball of the foot and 58 percent of women purchased new high-heeled shoes in the last year.

Women who wear high heels daily tend to be younger and are more likely to wear uncomfortable shoes. Younger women are more likely to experience blisters and pain in the arches of their feet than older women. Older women are more likely to experience corns, calluses, and bunions.

It was found that 82 percent of women wear high heels for fashion or style, 73 percent to complete professional attire, 54 percent to look sexier and more attractive, 48 percent to enhance legs, and 39 percent to appear taller.

High heel wearers were found to walk less efficiently with or without heels, requiring more energy to walk the same distance as people in flats or barefoot because of muscle tiredness. The muscle strain that occurs when walking in high heels may increase the risk of injuries not only in high heels but also when heel wearers switch to wearing sneakers or other flat shoes. After wearing high heels for years, the feet and legs eventually adapt to the position in high heels making it more difficult to wear flats and to go barefoot.

Wearing high heels changes the shape and functioning of the muscles and tendons of the feet and can cause significant foot pain and other problems ranging from bunions, corns, and calluses to hammertoes, ingrown toenails or excruciating pain in the ball of the foot due to loss of fat pad on the bottom of the foot. They also increase the risk of stress fractures and arthritis in the feet. High heels don’t cause bunions but can exacerbate them. High heels are often more comfortable in your 20s and 30s than they are in your 40s, 50s, and beyond – that’s because the feet change shape with age, which makes wearing high heels a lot less comfortable.

Even with the challenges above, many women refuse to give up their heels. A survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association showed that 42 percent of women admitted they would wear a shoe they liked even if it hurt their feet. So, if you plan to wear high heels here is advice that can help.

• Make sure you’re wearing the right size shoe.

• Know your foot type and wear the style of shoes that’s best for that foot type.

• The thicker the heel, the better.

• Avoid thin soles. Opt instead for a platform.

• Take a break. Try not to wear high heels every day. Instead, wear them maybe once or twice a week. If you do wear them daily, try to remove the heels whenever possible, such as when you’re sitting at your desk.

• Stretch your feet after you take your shoes off.

• Integrate lower heels into your wardrobe by alternating between high heels and flats.

• If you have bunions or hammertoes, consider having them surgically corrected.

• Those over-the-counter shoe inserts really do help – wear them.

• For more information email us at, or to see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996 or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical Centre, East Terrace Centreville or telephone 394-5820; or Lucayan Medical Centre, East Sunrise Highway, Freeport, Grand Bahama, every first and third Thursdays, telephone 373-7400.

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