Why your doctor wants you to buy MORE shoes...and other facts every woman (and man) should know about their feet

Appeared in: Daily Mail UK

By: Chloe Lampert

Published on: 01/18/12

They are a biological wonder, carrying your entire body weight for up to 10,000 steps a day without complaint.

They contain a quarter of the bones in your body and are vital for balance and mobility - so why do we treat our feet so badly?

Eighty per cent of British women suffer problems with their feet, according to the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, while one in five men suffers foot pain most days - and experts say many of these problems are down to a lack of basic footcare and terrible choice in shoes.

Just this week actress Amanda Holden was spotted in towering heels despite being weeks from giving birth.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia recently warned that high heels could be to blame for flat feet, a painful condition affecting around 15 per cent of people.

It appears sky-high shoes weaken tendons in feet, causing the arches to fall and leading to painful soles and postural problems.

Professor Alan Silman of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the research, said: 'Foot problems are an important and not sufficiently recognised cause of pain and disability in the elderly.

'This research represents a first step to unravelling some of the complex biochemistry that regulates tendon disorders.'

Uncomfortable footwear can lead to a range of problems from back pain to osteoporosis and even migraines - yet just 19 per cent of us actually seek treatment.

It's what Mike O'Neill, of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, calls Ostrich Syndrome.

'People don't like their feet - they consider them the ugliest part of the body, so they don't pay any attention to what's going on down there.'

And they will pay the price of this neglect, adds Andy Goldberg, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS in London.

'Problems can build for a long time before they really hurt. So people put up with it until the problem becomes permanent.'

Here, the experts reveal the worst crimes against feet - and offer simple tips to keep our long-suffering trotters in good health.


Your feet produce an eggcup of sweat each day, so if you wear the same shoes day in, day out, they'll never have time to dry out, raising the risk of fungal infections such as athlete's foot.

'Damp skin is more prone to infection because fungi grow most easily in warm, wet conditions,' says Chris Walker, consultant orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon at Liverpool's Bone and Joint Centre.

'It takes 12 to 18 hours for shoes to dry out after you've worn them, so you should alternate your shoes each day.

'Most women have a few pairs of shoes but men wear the same ones straight for six months,' adds Mike O'Neill.

'It's equivalent to wearing the same underpants every day for six months and puts you at risk of fungal infections and smelly feet.'


Foot binding was banned in China in 1912, but many experts wonder if anyone told the world's shoe manufacturers - because fashionable footwear is leading to a multitude of health problems.

'Shoewear design is in the dark ages,' says surgeon Andy Goldberg.

'A third of bunions are caused by shoes - we've become used  to wearing pointed shoes and  high heels.'

Up to one in ten of Britain's 15 million sufferers are thought to be men, whose problems are often made worse by fashionable Italian shoes, which are so long and thin they squash the toes, adds Goldberg.

But in the long term the effects of high heels can go way beyond bunions, says London osteopath John Durkin.

'When you walk, the foot naturally rolls in so that when it hits the ground, it absorbs the shock.

'High heels don't allow for this, so the knees and back absorb the shock instead, which can lead to back pain as well as osteoarthritis in the knee and hip.'

Meanwhile, Dr Jane Andersen, of the American Podiatric Medical Association has warned: 'The muscular tension that heels put on your back can also lead to migraines. But there aren't any studies proving this link.'

She says heels higher than 2in may throw the body out of alignment, putting strain on the back and causing neck and head pain.


'One of my biggest bugbears is what I call bathroom chiropody,' says podiatrist Emma Supple.

'People sit in the bath and carve a corn out of their own flesh, or dig out an ingrowing toenail with the nail scissors - it should always be done by a chiropodist to get rid of the problem for good.'

Surgeon Chris Walker even sees people who have used razor blades to remove calluses from the soles of their feet - dangerous because they cut too deep and can cause infection if the blade is not clean.

Emma Supple also warns against metal devices - which look similar to a cheese grater - that have become popular for exfoliating hard skin.

'Rubbing a metal object against the foot will inflame the tissue, causing pain in the area,' she says.

'A pumice stone would be better.'


Feet can provide important clues about our health - persistent ulcers on the feet are often the first sign of diabetes, for example (high blood sugars mean they are less able to heal), while flat  feet may mean you're at raised risk of arthritis.

But many of us are too afraid or disgusted to give them a once over, says Chris Walker.

'You should check your feet for cuts or thickened skin, changes in colour or changes in the toenails, and look out for calluses in the soles, too - elderly people, pregnant women and anyone who can't reach should use a mirror.'

Diabetics, in particular, should be vigilant, as they are at risk of neuropathy, a loss of sensation in the feet, and may not notice a dangerous cut or infection.


'People think they're good for you because they are so flat, but ballet pumps are one of the worst shoes,' says podiatrist Emma Supple.

'The lack of heel means there's too much impact on the arch of the foot, over time causing a lot of midfoot pain and jamming the function of the big toe joint.'

Flats also cause the feet to roll inwards, taking the knees with them and changing gait, which can raise the risk of knee and back pain.

'The heel is so flimsy that you end up clawing your toes to keep the shoe on,' says Mike O'Neill.

'This can damage the toe joint and the mechanics of the knee.'


Athlete's foot has reached 'epidemic' proportions in Britain as more and more of us go to the gym and use communal bathing areas, says Mike O'Neill.

'Men are worse than women and what they often do is go to the gym, then leave their trainers in the back of the car where it's warm and dark and a perfect breeding ground for any fungi they've picked up.'

Athlete's foot is characterised by flaking, itchy skin usually starting around the toes.

'Often, people rub one itching foot against the other which spreads it into the toenails, turning them a yellowy-brown colour,' warns O'Neill.

If left untreated the condition can last for months.


Three-quarters of us are thought to wear the wrong size shoes. This is partly because people stick to the size they were measured for when they were young, failing to realise that feet change shape.

But a study in 2009 found that 37 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men buy shoes in the sales knowing they're the wrong size.

Squashing the toes into an ill-fitting shoe changes the alignment of the body as well as raising the risk of bunions and hammer toes.

'You should have a finger's width between the end of your toes and the shoe,' says John Durkin.

'But ladies don't like their feet to look big, so they wear shoes too small for them.' not going barefoot

Studies comparing European with African populations suggest that people who do not wear shoes have healthier feet and posture.

Andy Goldberg says everyone should spend at least an hour a day walking barefoot.

'When foot muscles are inside tight shoes we don't use them properly. You should be able to pick up a 10p piece with your toes, but I doubt most people can.'

Slippers are a good alternative, says podiatrist Emma Supple, but be sure to wash them.

'A lot of people wear slippers for years without washing or changing them. What on earth could be growing in that sheepskin?'


Millions of us watched the stars of Sex And The City sipping coolly at their martinis in towering heels. But Chris Walker says alcohol and heels make for a lethal cocktail.

'Maybe 20 years ago if you got drunk and fell off a 4in heel you'd be OK - perhaps a ligament injury or fracture.

'Now women are falling off 6, 7, even 8in heels and the ankle breaks.

'It's awful to see because these patients are often young, and come to me with no idea that they will never run again. You never get over a break like that.'

Dr. Jane Andersen graduated from the California School of Podiatric Medicine (CSPM), formerly known as California College of Podiatric Medicine (CCPM), in 1993.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2087570/Why-doctor-wants-buy-MORE-shoes--facts-woman-man-know-feet.html

Request more information

Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper. Nullam id dolor id nibh ultricies vehicula ut id elit. Sed posuere consectetur est at lobortis. Donec sed odio dui.