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.