Stepping out in Style

David Redfern

Love shoes but cursed with painful foot problems? Don’t automatically blame your killer heels says David Redfern, a specialist foot and ankle surgeon.

It has long been said that high heels are to blame for a number of foot problems. If this were genuinely true then the more glamorous lines of ladies’ shoes should carry a health warning. However, Jimmy Choo can sleep soundly at night secure in the knowledge that there is really very little evidence to support this urban myth.

I think it’s fair to say that some feet are more able to cope with the demands of high fashion than others. Take bunions, or hallux valgus deformities to give them their technical name. The most important factor in determining whether you are likely to get one is a family history of such problems. That said, while high heels are not the main cause, they might play a part in provoking symptoms. Walking in high heels alters the mechanics of the foot and places a greater load on the forefoot which can compound any pre-existing problems or susceptibility to problems. So, if you are experiencing foot pain from arthritis, bunions, or hammer toes (where the toes are permanently contracted) your first step should be to choose your footwear with care.

If simple measures like sensible shoes and refraining from activities that make your feet hurt are not providing any comfort, then surgery might be something to consider. Modern minimally invasive surgical techniques and state of the art technology allow experienced foot and ankle surgeons to correct deformities such as bunions and hammer toes through tiny holes in the skin, without having to perform open surgery. Keyhole surgery allows us to leave the joints intact while realigning the bones to correct the deformity.

There are a number of different techniques and one of the main advances is the use of tiny specialised screws to fix the bones in their corrected position. This procedure overcomes the need for temporary wires to be left protruding from the foot during the recovery period while the bones heal. These tiny screws are left flush with the bone and hence do not usually need to be removed. They also hold the bones very still which means that it is extremely unusual for patients to experience much in the way of pain after surgery. Patients are able to bear weight on their foot immediately following the operation but must wear a protective shoe for the first six weeks. It will take several months for the foot to fully recover.

The decision as to whether to undergo surgery is an important one and should not be taken lightly. It is important that you are assessed by a specialist foot and ankle surgeon who can help you decide whether surgery is in your best interest.

To conclude, while high heels may not be the main culprit for foot problems, I suggest that you wear them with moderation - your feet will thank you for it!