It's time we had a little chat about shoes — the bad ones.
Now, everyone knows the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
(Whatever happened to that saying?)
And there's no doubt about where footwear falls in a woman's life...
...just behind oxygen and in front of handbags.
The problem is: shoes are by far the biggest cause of foot pain.
But this rogues line-up isn't restricted to 6-inch high stilettos. This list of infamy also includes footwear that a lot of men spend all day wearing.
Or both if you're Steven Tyler.
Government Health Warning
Some pretty shoes do ugly things to your feet. And I ain't shy in saying it.
In fact, certain footwear should carry a government health warning. The worst offenders will display gnarly pictures loud 'n' proud on the box.
Like a pack of ciggies, the graphic will display the consequences of a long-term habit.
High heels will have a pic of bad bunions. Safety boots? Inch-thick mustard toenails.
And as for flip-flop sandals, they'll have cracked and sand-dry heels.
I jest, of course. But only just.
Shoe Brands Hate Him (Find Out Why)
I keep having this recurring nightmare.
I'm trapped in medieval wooden stocks. I can feel the hot skin on my wrists breaking down from the struggle to escape.
There's a throng of smelly, jeering peasants uttering foul language at me.
They're close enough for me to see the angry spit on their yellow teeth.
The mob close in on me.
I see their dirty tunics adorned with big footwear brands.
Prada. Balenciaga. Jimmy Choo.
Then it starts. The hot crowd pelt me with shoes, slow at first, then the tempo rises.
I can't escape and soon a hailstorm of heels heads my way.
An errant steel-toe safety boot lands with a thwack on my forehead. A flip flop threshes my hair leaving me with a 1990's style center parting.
I wake, frosted with sweat, like a WW1 veteran with flashbacks.
I asked my therapist about this horrific dream.
She explained it was because I'm always slating certain types of footwear.
The root cause of my night terrors is a lot of the people I'm advising are simply not interested.
(Ask any Podiatrist they'll tell you the same)
She deduced that it's a subconscious manifestation that I'm fighting a losing battle.
A Vivid Imagination
Fortunately, my recurring nightmare and therapy are works of fiction.
They're like the Loch Ness Monster, Harry Potter and me with a full head of hair.
In other words, not real.
I wrote it because shoe injuries can make a Podiatrist feel like they're in a perpetual losing battle.
A lot (and I mean a lot) of patients I see outright refuse to change whatever they're wearing.
Until it's too late and they're forced.
It's what I assume doctors in the 1970s found advising people to give up smoking.
"Yeah, well I like them, so to hell with my health".
(Perhaps the image on packets thing wasn't too far-fetched after all)
And what better place to start than the most loyal fan base of all products: high heels.
High Heels. High Bills.
That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, states:
"High heels cause the legs to appear longer, make the wearer appear taller, and accentuate the calf muscle."
But they do so much more than that, don't they?
They're a status symbol, a fashion statement, a powerful equalizer, an object of desire, etc, etc.
The problem is, they also murder your poor feet. Even without the Barbie feet challenge.
Business in Front, Party at The Back
Yep, they cause a smorgasbord of foot issues. From corns to callus to ugly bunions and everything in between.
Why? And how?
In short: it's a combination of tight squeezing at the front magnified by the upending at the back.
Let's begin at the leading point.
Moldy Toes and Hard Rubs
So let's talk about the taper, the point, the high-heel arrowhead.
They squeeze. They rub. They press. (And not in a good way).
First off, the squeeze.
It's amazing how moldable your toes are. What I mean is how your toes deform if put in a certain position long enough.
High heels also rub. That tight triangle you stuffed into makes it impossible not to chafe the life out of your toes.
(Particularly your pinky toe)
Finally, they press. Now this one is more subtle.
When your heel lifts, it puts more strain on the front.
Don't take my word for it, though, try it yourself.
Stand on your tippy toes. Feel your weight shift to the front? How it presses the balls of your toes into the ground?
Now, the raised heel of your shoes is negating some of that imbalance. But not all.
This is a big part of the problem: because you don't feel like you're on circus stilts the effect goes on and on.
High Heels Are Bad For You (But Great For Podiatrists)
I've made my point. I'm guessing you're reading this because you've experienced some of the above.
Now, I'm well aware that 99.99% of you aren't going to stop wearing raised heel shoes.
But I will say: try your best to spend as much downtime in something comfy and cushioning.
Use ample urea-based foot cream and get it on any hard patches before they turn into corns.
Which, trust me, you really don't want.
(I use Gehwol Fusskraft Mint or Blue on my patients)
Callus Construction, Inc.
Now, in the name of gender equality, let's turn to something as manly as bull riding and tomahawk steaks.
I am of course referring to steel-toe safety boots.
I want to preface this by saying: safety boots stop your toes getting crushed. They protect your delicate foot skin from being burnt off.
Wear them — they're essential. Plus, you'll get fired if you don't.
But, there's no doubt metal-domed work boots do an absolute number on your feet.
I treat construction workers with enough callus to paper an interesting living room.
Or have matchbox-thick toenails in a fetching shade of an over-ripe banana.
Nine Inch (Thick) Nails
So, your toenails. The reason for this is that your toenails are smashed in steel-toe safety boots.
They butt up into the tough, resistant material and the metal sat at the end.
As you're in a protective cover, you're much more liable to bash and crash into things you'd otherwise howl in pain at.
This force has to go somewhere; and it isn't always absorbed by your footwear.
Sleep With the Fishes
Steel toe safety boots are like callus production machines and there's a few reasons for this.
The main one is that they're heavy (compared to normal shoes). This means there's more force absorbed into your foot skin.
But remember they're rigid. They don't roll, bend and flex with the punches like normal soles do.
This mass and stiffness means that you're effectively walking around with mafia-style cement boots.
Barry Manilow For President 2024
In an ideal world, those of you who wear work boots would get regular Podiatry treatments.
But this is as fanciful as asking your average 21-year-old woman to ditch the heels.
It's got as much chance of happening as Barry Manilow becoming the next POTUS.
In other words, next to none.
So, I highly recommend you take a good foot file and even better cream to your feet once every few weeks.
Gehwol Callus Cream is great for this.
Skimpy Thongs (Makes Skin go Hard)
Australians (both male and female) spend most of their life wearing thongs.
They have entire stores devoted to thongs.
Those crazy Aussies walk bare down the street in their favorite pair and then go shopping in Walmart.
I am, of course, referring to flip-flops, which is what Aussies call them.
What did you think I meant?
Dry Cracked Heels From Flip Flops
Now to be fair, flip-flops are the gentlest of the painful three.
They cause a lot less drama than big chunky workboots; and are heavenly compared to heels.
The biggest issue I see from flip-flops are Sahara-dry heels with canyon-deep cracks.
It's pretty straightforward. Without fabric backing, your heels rasp whatever surface you walk on as your foot lands.
The foam hasn't always got your back and slaps back up. Multiply that by many, many thousands.
You almost certainly don't notice this until it's too late. Unlike the heel pain.
Plantar Fasciitis From Flip Flops
Heel pain from flip-flops tends to strike those who are new to them.
The classic case is someone who goes on a long sunny holiday.
Fat on a diet of heels and arch-support, their plantar fascia gets the shock of its life with no support suddenly.
They bring home more than just duty-free booze.
When High(er) Heels Are Good
Sandblasted heels are best stopped early. The deeper the fissures and thicker the skin, the more work you'll have to do later.
You can nip this in the bud with daily application of a good foot cream. Gehwol Med Salve for cracked skin is my recommended go-to for patients.
Now, on heels. One of the few times I advocate going out of your way to hike them up is for plantar fasciitis.
I'm not talking about anything catwalk-tier.
I mean something with the extra millimeters that your strained plantar fascia needs.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to those ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).
The 3 Types of Shoe (That Make Podiatrists Rich)
Painful feet keep me in business. A mammoth part of that is due to your footwear.
High heels, work boots and flip flops to be more precise.
Remember the old saying? "Doctor, it hurts when I do this".
The Doctor replies: "Well, don't do that".
But I understand it's not always as simple as that; either for work or fashion.
The best advice I can give is to switch and rest up as much as you can. And whatever you do, don't ignore sharp pain!