Shoes Hurt? Give Them the Boot

Almost all women say their feet hurt, says survey

Serena Gordon

Serena Gordon

Published on October 29, 2001

MONDAY, Oct. 29, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Like Cinderella's stepsisters, women today are stuffing their feet into shoes that are just too small.

Some do it for fashion. Some do it for price. But, clearly many women do it.

A recent online survey of 1,724 people by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that 80 percent of women said their feet hurt. And, almost 60 percent admitted wearing uncomfortable shoes at least an hour a day.

Style drives most women to wear uncomfortable footwear, says Dr. Gail Dalton, an Atlanta-based orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon and spokeswoman for the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Slightly more than one-third of the women surveyed said they had to wear certain shoes for work, while 10 percent said they wear uncomfortable shoes because that's all they can afford. Other reasons for wearing painful shoes included looking taller and making legs look longer.

This vanity comes with a high price. Forty-three million Americans have trouble with their feet, costing the country $3.5 billion a year, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

"Ill-fitting shoes can lead to a whole host of problems," says Dalton. The wrong shoe can cause bunions, blisters, calluses, corns, hammertoes and heel pain. High-heeled shoes can cause even more serious problems, like back pain or worsening arthritis in the knee.

"This problem has been consistent with American women for years," says Tucker Allen, a board-certified pedorthotist (foot and shoe specialist) with, in Leominster, Mass. "Women still are wearing ill-fitting shoes, and, more seriously, they're putting their children in ill-fitting shoes."

But Allen doesn't blame women. "I fault the companies. They could make better shoes. They have the technology and the expertise, but they haven't given women a lot of choice." Though providing greater selection of sizes is more expensive for shoe manufacturers, Allen acknowledges that companies have made some strides in the last five years or so and now offer shoes with broader toes rather than pointy ones.

If you want a shoe that won't hurt, the first thing you need is to have your feet fitted by someone who knows what they're doing, says Dalton. "Most people don't even get fitted anymore. They pick their shoes out based on the size that fit 20 years ago." She recommends having your foot measured every six months.

Other ways to minimize foot pain include:

  • not wearing heels more than 2 inches high,
  • wearing heels as little as possible,
  • looking for shoes that match the shape of your foot,
  • making sure the bottom of the shoe and the heel are firm and offer support.

Allen says shoes don't have to be expensive to be good for your feet. He says you can get just as much comfort from a $50 shoe as you can from $150 shoe if it fits well.

Dalton says women are becoming less tolerant of uncomfortable shoes, but "when it comes down to what to wear with the evening dress or to a wedding, women almost always pick the shoe that's fashionable."

What To Do

To read more about foot pain and its causes, go to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. You also can check this Foot Fitness Plan from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.

For tips on finding shoes that fit properly, click here.

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