What the Yuck: Do I have to stop wearing heels?
April 22nd, 2011
04:41 PM ET

What the Yuck: Do I have to stop wearing heels?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I have developed ugly, painful bunions. Do I have to stop wearing my high heels?

Not necessarily, but you should skip the narrow-toe shoes. Most bunions are inherited, but narrow shoes with a small toe box can sometimes cause them.

Bunions form when bone grows abnormally at the base of the big toe in the joint between your toe and foot. As they develop, they turn the big toe inward toward the smaller toes, and the enlarged joint can become inflamed, red, and painful. Women tend to have more trouble with bunions than men, thanks in part to our love affair with tough-on-the-tootsies footwear. A recent study said most of us wear shoes a size too small!

Make sure any style you wear provides at least half an inch of space between the end of your longest toe and the shoe tip. The shoe should conform to the shape of your foot and be comfortable across the widest part. How you walk could also be part of the problem: Placing too much stress on the big toe or the inside of your foot can cause bunions, along with a host of other problems, like back pain.

If your bunions hurt, see a podiatrist: She may suggest special padding to stop the irritation and abrasion and/or anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone injections to reduce the swelling and pain. Orthotic shoes or inserts may also help by keeping your feet in the ideal position as you walk.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. TC

    Be careful, if you continue to wear the shoes causing bunions you could damage your foot enough that you'll need surgery.

    I never wear heels, I'm just way to clumsy for heels but I still developed painful bunions and at 23 I had to have surgery on both my feet. The surgery is very painful and I do have scars from it but for me it was well worth it.

    April 22, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maria

      By painful, are you referring to the recovery? How long was the recovery for you? And did you do both feet at once? I'm asking because I'm going to need surgery myself. I can't take this pain much longer and it's becoming impossible to find any shoes that fit.

      April 22, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      @ Maria; I recall full recovery being about 6 weeks (I had one done due to genetics, not heels) Pain is severe 1st week...I am sure those with a desk job would be back @ work within 2 weeks but I am an RN & had to factor in 12 hours shifts on my feet.

      April 23, 2011 at 02:03 | Report abuse |
    • @Maria

      I had both feet done by the time I was 21 (Thanks to inheriting them from the female side of my family). I had 1 done at a time and was on crutches for ~6 weeks each time. My podiatrist used pins that would be pulled out at the end of 6 weeks so nothing is still in my foot. It's a bit painful to first start walking on it again..recovery isn't too bad. My feet still ache at times if it's going to rain or if I've been on my feet too long, but not too often anymore. (I had the last surgery done almost 6 1/2 years ago when it was becoming painful to walk)

      April 23, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • TC

      The recovery was painful, but so worth it. I would do it over again.

      My doc didn't do both feet at once, he did one and 6 weeks later I had the other done.

      April 23, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
  2. person

    I wear vibram fivefingers, and I haven't had any foot problems since I started wearing them.

    April 22, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      Now if only ALL of us could special order $200 sock shoes that will wear out in 6 months with regular use...

      April 23, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
    • person

      Think before you start typing, if possible. Yes, they cost a fair amount, about eighty dollars, but not an overwhelming amount. I don't exactly have a lot of money, and could afford them. And the only time I've heard of them wearing out in six months would be if someone ran several miles a day or something. So you would only be paying an average of maybe a little less than eight dollars a month with regular use for more comfort and less foot problems. A cellphone bill would normally be at least triple that.

      April 23, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
    • pk

      I have tried on every type of Vibrm's, and found them to be extremely uncomfortable. They will do nothing for you if you need arch support, and sure don't help with bunions. Also, not exactly what you would call office appropriate footwear, and I sure as heck would not wear them on the subway. Glad they work for you, but they are not for everyone.

      April 24, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse |
  3. heather

    let me add to this- lose some weight. your feet will get smaller so your shoes will be less tight and you will have better balance so you will put less strain and your toes

    April 22, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jing Hu

      Or just get a bigger sized shoe. I usually buy a size bigger when i'm shopping for high heels or wedges.

      April 25, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse |
    • skinny minny

      Losing weight may help, but I'm really on the thin side and they still hurt! At age 25 and not a high-heel type of gal, its been rough!

      May 5, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  4. Beth

    After 25 years in high heels, my bunion pain was bad enough to get the bunion surgery – got both feet done one year apart. I think it was worth it, regardless of the nasty scars on both feet. And I hope to wear heels again...once in awhile. I didn't think the surgery pain was bad at all – it was more difficult to be on crutches for 6 weeks and not be able to drive for 3 months after my right foot was operated on. Couldn't have gotten through it all without the help of my husband. But there are many different types of surgeries that don't have the lengthy recovery time that I had. BTW, surgery was done by an Orthopaedic specialist not podiatrist. Good luck with your decision, Maria.

    April 22, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Teri

      Scars on the feet troubling you? Wow, you are quite shallow there, princess!

      April 23, 2011 at 02:07 | Report abuse |
    • D

      A little comment troubling you? Wow, you are quite judgmental, Teri. Jeez.

      April 23, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      That wasn't very nice. This poster shared a real life story of what it's like to suffer from this affliction and how the surgery goes. Her post was very helpful and you go and call her shallow? You, ma'am, are what's wrong with women.

      April 23, 2011 at 19:41 | Report abuse |
    • MT

      I would also recommend an orthopedic surgeon for the procedure. There are a lot of good podiatrists out there, but many of them are quacks and don't necessarily have the surgical experience that an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle problems. Don't to a sports doctor or an ortho who specializes in backs, just feet. I have a bunion but fortunately it only flares up occasionally. I'll live with it now and hopefully won't have to have surgery.

      This is no offense to Kelly – you may be one of those qualified podiatrists. This is just my opinion.

      May 4, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  5. Matthew Taylor, PT, PhD

    The twisting rotational deformity of bunions isn't just a foot problem, but often the result of the entire chain of bones twisting inward from tight/weak hip muscles. Go to a yoga class that focuses on alignment, hip opening and balance to watch the undoing of that twist. We sit too much, breathe to shallowly which tightens the pelvic floor and then wonder why our hips/knees/feet collapse in same pattern, over and over. Don't believe me, try it and decide for yourself.

    April 23, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Heather

      Interesting. I was just wondering after reading the article and comments why I wouldn't be having any trouble with bunions after a couple years of pointe classes. Your post explains a lot – proper turn out and muscle tone/alignment which was taught first.

      April 24, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse |
  6. Anna

    Teri, just because you don't care about the appearance of your feet doesn't mean you should insult someone who does. Different people have different feelings about their feet and their body in general. Be nice..

    April 23, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      She is talking about her OWN feet. She can say anything she wants about them. You talk about yourself and she talks about herself. Everybody's happy.

      April 23, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  7. Whoa.

    My mom has heinous bunions that are starting to cause her a lot of pain. I remember a woman who taught a class in college who wore these orthopedic shoes and told us all about her multiple surgeries and it was all because she wore high heeled shoes and damaged her feet. She told us to be careful what kind of shoes we wore. I never forgot that, but I also didn't know bunions were hereditary. I'm glad I took that lady's advice and always chose function over fashion.

    April 23, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dee

    Anyone who has scars over bony areas knows how painful it can be when something rubs against it. Scars are not all about vanity.

    April 23, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TC

      My scars are on top of my feet and are 100% covered when I wear flip flops

      April 23, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  9. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Despite the problems with them, it remains so that high heels are the greatest aphrodesiac known to man.

    April 24, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • emlly

      of course -men dont care if it's painful to the woman as long as it pleases them

      May 2, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
  10. i hate feet

    Sometimes my foot hurts so much that all I can do is lay in bed and cry. Surgery is not an option right now & if there's an $80 temporary solution, I'll pay it. Now I need to know where I can buy them. Any suggestions? I live in New Orleans. Thanks!!

    April 24, 2011 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      Online. They are the same price everywhere.

      April 24, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
  11. Susan

    I barely ever wore heels, and had bunions at the age of 14. Totally inherited. I got surgery, got them broken and pinned into place, and it was fantastic. For 20 years I had been hiding my feet because they were so ugly. Now I have tons of cute sandals. I have been free of the ugly feet for at least 5 years with no recurrence, and I got them done at the same time, easy recovery. See a podiatrist, you won't regret it!

    April 24, 2011 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Juan

      You didn't answer the ntaispam question correctly, your comment was not saved. Press "Back" and answer the question better.Just to be sure that your message won't be lost – copy it now to the clipboard. 搞得我很紧张来着.. 特地来留言测试一下下....果然..是啥子插件啊?压根都木有问题出来

      April 9, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  12. Laura

    Ladies, please take care of your feet! There is such thing as moderation. Skip the 4 inch heels and go for the 1.5 inch.
    Skip the narrow toe for a little bit wider toe.
    Skip cheap shoes.
    Those things alone will help a lot, and you still get the elegant lady look that we like to tease men with.

    April 24, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nicole

    I inherited bunions from my father's side of the family. I am a teacher and constantly being on my feet for hours at a time made them very painful. So, after 3 years of teaching, I used my summer break two years in a row to have the surgery done on each foot. I was on crutches for the first few days, but I was able to walk short distances by the end of the first week. I wore a surgical boot for 4 weeks and then tennis shoes, though flip flops were more comfortable if I wasn't walking far. I was cleared for mild exercise by the end of 8 weeks. The hardest part for me was when I had my right foot done because I couldn't drive for almost 6 weeks. I do have scars, but they aren't extremely noticeable. I'll take pins and scars over painful feet any day!

    April 24, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      Good for you for using your summer break. I know a lot of public-school teachers, many of whom have scheduled surgical procedures and pregnancies to maximize time off during the school year. Shameful, in my opinion.

      April 24, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  14. Fiona

    Genetics aside, you can change a lot about your feet by strengthening them. I had terribly painful feet and ankles that I was told, by various health professionals and physical therapists, was due to plantar faciitis or weak arches or a bad hip...etc. It turned out to be a nerve problem in the foot. I have been doing a slow form of yoga for a few years and that has helped me to strengthen the entire structure of my feet, ankles, calves and thighs. Part of this is the strtching and working of the toes. That's the whole point of the Five Fingers footwear that people were bashing up the thread. It offers no arch support because you don't need arch support if you have strong feet.

    April 24, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. i hate feet

    Thanks Fiona!!!

    April 24, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Lala

    laura, I've never worn heels for more than few hours at a time for special occasions only like weddings and graduation, yet I STILL have bunions. It is inherited on my mothers side as well as the Osteo arthritis I carry and suffer from everyday. I wear good qualiy shoes and spend 10 hrs a day on my feet. SOME days the pain is almost unbearable: some it's not bad at all.
    A good glass of wine, feet up on a footstool and a good nights sleep (along with some avil of course) is what helps me the most. FLIP-FLOPS mimic barefoot walking the closest and SHOULD be worn if you have knee issues as well. (I DO) http://www.thirdage.com/arthritis/the-flip-flop-approach-to-avoiding-knee-pain?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=conditions
    As far as foot pain........... I stand 10 hrs a day and can wear flip-flops to work....so, I DO!

    April 24, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adilet

      Krishna Sir,Namaskar. This is Narayan Singh Gurung from London. Thank you very very much for your detailed roinfmation about Ghandruk. May we hope to hear from you the same in the days to come as well. Finally please extend my and my family's regards to Dharma Shila madam and children.Bye for now.

      April 9, 2012 at 08:23 | Report abuse |
  17. Elizabeth

    I was coming home from church services in my (sensible) low-heel loafers, but wearing nylons (which I don't usually do). The nylons are slippery; my shoes are not even as big as recommended in the article, but my feet were slipping with every step. As I climbed my porch steps, my feet slipped in my shoes, and I fell, hurting my hand, wrist, a hip, knee, and ankle. I think the reason most people wear the tight shoes is that socks made out of synthetic materials are slippery. Usually, I wear cotton. This year I've tried to replace some cotton socks, only to find that even the pricey stores now carry socks that are part nylon or other synthetic. So expect more shoes that are too tight because the feet slip otherwise, or else, instead of bunions, expect more broken wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. By the way, my husband had bunion surgery a couple of years ago. I recommend to those who might be thinking about such surgery: get a walker beforehand. They tried to train my husband to crutches, but he couldn't balance, and I had to rush out to find the walker. Try second-hand stores; much cheaper. The walker helped him to recover from the surgery. The surgery straightened his foot, but hasn't helped his gait much.

    April 25, 2011 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Kelly

    I'm a podiatrist myself, email me and I can answer and clarify any questions you have about your bunions, and the surgery.

    April 25, 2011 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. sally

    skip shoes altogether and never have foot problems or smelly feet 🙂

    May 19, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Heather2

    My bunions were inherited. Had surgery at 14 (apparently my feet were worse than an 80 yr old lady's!). They were done one at a time and about 9 months apart. 2 months on crutches for the first one, and after a modified procedure on the second foot, I just had to walk on the side of my foot during recovery. I love my scars and never had any pain with the scars (or the bunions oddly enough). After 11 years they are faded so much that my feet have to be in your face to know they are there!

    May 24, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Poor Choices

    I wore 2 inch heels to work every day until I was in my fifties. I injured one foot and haven't worn them since. I also developed heel pain in both feet and now go to a podiatrist. Girls, pamper your feet and wear properly fitting padded shoes before it is too late. It is miserable being in my sixties and having bad feet from my poor choices.

    June 21, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. five finger

    I love sports, I love nature, I love the Vibram Five Fingers!

    October 19, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Karan

    Your Great Mom! Posted on I really mesisd you! Don't do that to me again. You have posted some great stuff and I will continue to check your site at least a couple of times each week.

    April 8, 2012 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply

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