By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
"Women do love their high heels, but if you wear them all the time,
significant foot pain and other problems can ensue, either as a direct result
of the heels or exacerbated by them," says Morris Morin, DPM, director of
podiatric medicine at the Hackensack University Medical Center.
Problems range from common concerns like bunions, corns, and calluses to
more complex issues like misshapen hammertoes or that excruciating pain in the
ball of the foot that seems to grow worse with each passing
Still, many women refuse to give up their high heels: A survey conducted by
the American Podiatric Medical Association showed some 42% of women admitted
they'd wear a shoe they liked even if it gave them discomfort; 73% admitted
already having a shoe-related foot issue.
So what's the answer? Doctors say if you must wear them at all, take a few
precautions, and catch and treat problems early on. If you do, you'll not only
avoid many high-heel problems, but you'll make the time you spend in spikes a
happier day for your feet.
Anytime you wear shoes that are tight or constrict the natural shape of your
foot, doctors say it's bound to cause foot pain.
But when you add high heels in to the equation, podiatrist Stuart Mogul,
DPM, says pain can quickly escalate to damage.
"In addition to restricting the foot, you are also increasing the weight
on the area that is restricted, so you're not only crushing your toes, but
you're crushing them and then putting weight on them, and that's a
problem," says Mogul.
Among the most common problems he sees are painful, aching bunions -- those
bony protrusions that usually pop up at the base of the big toe and distort the
shape of the foot.
"High heels don't cause bunions, but they sure can aggravate them. Both
the heel height and the point of the shoe can play a role," says Mogul.
Moreover, he says some women who have bunions also have a displaced bone on
the bottom of the big toe joint, which changes the way the foot
"tracks" or acts during motion.
"If the foot is then placed in a high heel, and pitched forward, the
pressure on these bones increases and bunion pain grows worse," he