Dangerous Heights: What High Heels Really Do To Your Feet

African American woman sitting outside in heels
We wear heels for a number of reasons. They’re sexy, they make us a few inches taller (which also makes us look a little slimmer) and they make our calves pop. As much as we love them, many of us can’t wear them for long periods of time without experiencing excruciating pain that makes it almost unbearable to take another step. While the pain may ease soon after you get home and kick off your stilettos, or slide them off under the conference table, the pain is a key indicator that high heels may be causing long-term damage.
“High heels are responsible for many painful conditions in women’s feet. If I see 100 people with non-traumatic foot pain, probably 80 of them are women, and probably half of those women experience pain due to the wearing of high heels or tight shoes, either in the past or presently,” said Dr. Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon based in Austin, TX.
There are some high-end brands that offer more comfort like, Nine West and Steve Madden. But, even the most comfortable shoes could still mean compromising balance and pretty feet for a few (younger) years of fashion. Many orthopedics recommend wearing a flat or barefoot style of shoe as opposed to a high heel.
“High heels force the forefoot down into the narrowest part of the shoe. This is a direct cause of the common conditions of hallux valgus (bunions) and Morton’s neuroma (a condition caused by the squeezing of the toes and subsequent damage to the delicate nerves between the toes),” said Dr. Bergin.