There are many documented problems caused by wearing high heels. Some of these are minor, only occurring with occasional wear, but others can be more severe and require treatment, especially as women age.
One of the most common problems suffered by people who wear high heels is blistering of the feet. This occurs when the shoe rubs the foot the wrong way, pushes two toes together, or otherwise squeezes the toes. Some blistering can be diminished by making sure shoes fit properly. New high heels should be worn with bandages on the toes and on the heel until the shoe is broken it. People can also try moleskin or other padding to stop new shoe blisters before they occur.
When a shoe that is causing blisters or soreness is ignored, a person can get corns. These are a common and minor problem often caused by wearing high heels. A narrow toe box in a shoe, the feet being pushed forward into the toe box, and friction between the foot and shoe may result in painful corns. The feet may also become thickly callused.
Narrow toe boxes and the foot slanting downward are frequently the reason for problems caused by wearing high heels. When the foot is jammed into the shoe, the wearer can experience not only blisters and corns, but also hammertoes, bunions, and toenail fungus problems. Other problems can affect the structure of the foot, and the rest of the body.
Keeping the feet in a lifted position for many hours of the day sometimes creates a shortened Achilles tendon. This shortening may make wearing flatter shoes less comfortable or almost impossible. If a person is uncomfortable wearing flatter shoes, she might want to periodically lower of the height of her heels. This can mean she gradually addresses the issue without causing great discomfort to the foot, and she gets a new pair of shoes each month. It can also help to walk barefoot at home.
Other problems caused by wearing high heels include the following:
- Stress fractures — cracks or breaks in the bones, more common as people age.
- Twisted/sprained/broken ankles — from turning a foot while wearing a high-heeled shoe.
- Pump Bump — an enlargement of the back of the heel making it stick out and be red or swollen.
- Joint pain — especially in the toes and on the balls of the feet, the joint can become chronically irritated, and this is worsened when heels are worn all the time.
- Neuroma — tissue growth under the toes that results in extreme pain.
- Back problems — may be related to wearing high heels and having poor postural alignment.
With so many potential problems, it’s a good idea for people to choose to wear heels only occasionally, or to only wear them when they are required, as in an office environment. Still, occasional use, or even daily use, is not likely to cause many problems if people use the shoes only for work or play, and then switch to a more comfortable and supportive shoe for the rest of the day. Problems can also be reduced by purchasing shoes that fit properly and have adequate room in the toe box.