Staying foot-healthy in your heels

As friends and long-time readers of SRxA’s Word on Health know, high heels are at the top of my list of vices.  High heels have been blamed for a number of foot problems, yet most women, myself included, aren’t willing to give our shoes the boot.

Now, podiatrists at Loyola University Health System are giving us another reason to reconsider.

It turns out that high heels and pointed-toe shoes are leading cause of ingrown toenails. This painful condition, also known as onychocryptosis, occurs when the toes compress together making the big toenails grow into the skin. Ouch!

High heels and tight-fitting or pointed-toe shoes create chronic pressure on the big toenails and prevent them from growing properly. Additionally, shoe pressure can cause the nail to puncture the skin leading to infection.

Those of us addicted to our heels are probably thinking “Yeah, yeah”.  What’s a bit of pain?  While the “flats” fetishists are probably cheering.

If you’re among the former group, here’s some advice to manage ingrown toenails and prevent infection:

  • Cut out a cardboard tracing of each foot and attempt to place it in the shoe when shopping for a new pair. If it does not fit, then the shoes are too narrow
  • Refrain from wearing tight hosiery
  • Limit the amount of time in heels
  • Wear heels on days that require limited walking or standing
  • Trim toenails straight across the top;
  • Soak feet in lukewarm, soapy water or Epsom salts
  • Dry feet and toes thoroughly with a clean towel
  • Use a mild antiseptic solution on the toes

If, despite the above measures, pain, swelling and discharge develop, the toe is likely infected and will need to be treated by a podiatrist.

Dr. Rodney Stuck, DPM, professor of Podiatry Medicine at Loyola, warns that people with diabetes should be particularly careful of ingrown toenails. They may have poor circulation, which makes healing difficult and may be more susceptible to nerve damage which can prevent them from feeling pain in their feet. If ignored, this condition, can lead to amputation.”

In general, however, if you give your feet the attention they need, they will look and feel healthy. And a bit of extra care will allow those of us who prefer high heels to continue to wear them.

Pretty Shoes Lead to Pretty Ugly Feet

 With Memorial day weekend upon us, it’s time to start thinking about our summer wardrobe.  And where better to start than with shoes? While we could blog about shoes all day, we’re reminded that this is Word on Health!

With that said…according to a recent study, 39% of women say they wear high heels every day, and 75% of those women have foot problems.  Hardly a  shocker! Just about any poll of our colleagues or friends could have told us that.

Most women accept shoe-related foot pain as a viable alternative to wearing flats.  Bunionsarthritic and hammer toescalluses, and plantar warts are just the price to be paid for great looking gams and killer heels.

Many women wear shoes to work every day that look great but they are simply too small,” said Dr. Pedro Cosculluela, an orthopedic surgeon with The Methodist Hospital in Houston. “The biggest problems we encounter are related to the height of the heel and/or the narrowness of the toe box.”

Poor fit can lead to toe deformities such as bunions.  “As the deformity worsens, the big toe loses its ability to properly carry the load, which can lead to increased pressure along two through five. This can, in turn, lead to pain and cause hammertoes and cross-over toe deformities,” Cosculluela said.

High heels also bend the toes up and can move padding under the knuckles of the foot further down, exposing more bone to the bottom of the shoes, causing a great deal of pain. Frequent use of high heels is also associated with the development of tight calf muscles which can lead to other painful foot problems such as plantar fasciitisflat feet and Achilles tendonitis.

However, there is hope, even for the shamelessly shoe addicted.  Apparently all women need to do is a simple test before they buy to find out if those “must have” shoes will fit:

Take a pen and draw around your bare foot, then put the shoe over the drawing. If your toes stick out of the shoe, they are too small. In which case, you might want to try a bigger pair that will cause you less discomfort.

To see if this works, I just took my very own “footprint” down to my shoe closet. Out of the, well let’s just say, several pairs hiding away in there, only two would have passed the test.  And yes, you’ve guessed it- they’re the “sensible” ones that I never wear.

Do you sacrifice comfort for glamour? Or are you firmly in the flat camp?  Let us know.