Women seek practical and extreme solutions to high heel pain

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - From corsets to high heels, women have compromised their comfort for fashion throughout every age of time, but it's time to get real about what women are doing to their feet and learn what they can do to stop the pain without giving up their favorite pumps.

For many ladies, it's a love-hate relationship between them and their heels.

Local professional Melanie Emery admits that wearing heels is "definitely an image thing, but you know what? You feel good when you wear them.

At the end of the day, women aren't willing to sacrifice style for comfort. In a recent survey of women, 42 percent say they wear shoes that hurt. A startling 73 percent of women admitted to already having a shoe-related foot issue like bunions, corns, calluses or hammer toes.

"You know when they become a condition that affects you on a daily basis, it's time to talk about some surgery," says Dr. Jordanna Baker of Coastal Podiatry Associates.

In a rare look of what's inside those heels, Dr. Baker took an X-ray of the foot with and without heels, remarking that when a foot is inside a heel, "that's almost a 90 degree angle right there." The angle isn't the only thing that grabs her attention. "Those are nails and screws.

"That's fantastic for your foot, I'm sure," says Emery. "It's shocking. No wonder our feet hurt all the time."

"So there's an excessive amount of pressure right here, and directly under the heel, and the Achilles tendon is contracted," Dr. Baker says. "So, over time, those become major deforming forces on the foot." What many may not realize is that as we get older, the fat pad in the bottom of our foot actually diminishes. With less cushion between bone and shoe, it makes wearing them, especially heels, very difficult to bear.

To avoid the pain, some are resorting to a cosmetic procedure where collagen is injected in the heel, the ball, of the foot or both. The downtime is short, meaning you're walking out of the office mere minutes after the procedure. The only catch, it's going to cost you.

Dr. Baker says the surgery is "cosmetic, so all cosmetic surgeries are expensive. It would depend on how much you would need," adding it could cost, "anywhere from $600 to $1200 a foot for those injections that last six months to a year." She currently doesn't perform the surgeries herself, but is familiar with the process.

There's also foot-tuck fat pad augmentation. Fat is taken from elsewhere and injected into these same sites. It's proven to last longer, but like any cosmetic procedure, there are risks, including an infection or allergic reaction.

If you don't have the resources for these procedures, there are some tips to making those shoes more tolerable:

  • It all starts with getting a good-fitting heel. Check to make sure there isn't a gap in the back, because that will cause more pressure on your toes.
  • Wear a thicker heel for stability.
  • Pay attention to the slope of the shoe. A platform on the front can help make the pitch not feel so drastic.
  • Use "accessories" for your shoes like corn pads, spacers for your toes and metatarsal pads that give you a fake cushion without the surgery.
  • Wear more comfortable shoes if you know you're walking long distances.
  • Kick them off at work and put on flats to give your feet a break.

"Even if you say 'I spend a lot of money on my shoes,' or 'I buy good shoes.' well that shoe is not made for your foot, period," Dr. Baker advises. "So we can try and make it more just for you."

When asked if there's such a thing as a perfectly-fitting "Cinderella" shoe, Dr. Baker responds, "That glass slipper is not blown for her, I'm sure."

If you have a foot-related question to ask Dr. Baker, you can find her contact information here.

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