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Last updated August 21, 2016 (originally published October 1, 2010)

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial

Buying the right shoes is not just a fashion choice. It can
be one of the most important health decisions you make.
We walk more than 115,000 miles in a lifetime – that’s
more than 4 times the earth’s circumference.

Every time we take a step, our feet support us under the
pressure of 3 times our body weight. Our shoes should
protect us.

But how often does a stylish, uncomfortable heel win over
a comfortable flat – even when it’s a little too small? Does
wearing shoes that are too tight harm our health? What
exactly are the health dangers of too tight shoes?

The soaring popularity of
sky-high heels and Sex and the
-style sandals have created health problems for
thousands of women.

Millions of us every year buy and wear shoes that are too
small for our feet. According to a 2009 survey from the
American Podiatric Medical Association, a massive 88
percent of American women had worn shoes that were too
tiny for their feet.

And 87 percent of women have suffered due to painful
footwear. 64 percent of Americans confessed they wore
shoes that hurt their feet and nearly 12 percent did so,
willingly, on a daily basis.

The pressure of attaining beautiful feet to fit into stylish
shoes has even sent increasing numbers of women under
the knife. Bunion correction procedures that make feet
narrower, toe shortening operations, procedures to slim
the pinky to fit into small shoes and even “Fat Pad
Augmentation” - where fat from the belly is injected into
the balls of the feet for extra cushioning – are popular
procedures for many cosmetic surgeons.

If The Shoe Fits

Cosmetic surgery seems a high price to pay for fitting
shoes a size too small. There are other ways to make sure
your feet are comfortable.

Can you even remember the last time you got your feet
properly measured? 65 percent of women who responded
to the American Podiatric Medical Association’s 2007
Women’s Consumer Survey had not had their feet
measured in more than five years.

So, get measured but don’t make the mistake of buying
your shoes without trying them on just because the tag
says it’s your size. All manufacturers and styles vary and
there’s no substitute for a fitting.

Your Feet Swell Up to 8% Bigger During the Day

You should never shop for shoes in the morning. Go
shopping later in the day when your feet are at their
largest – up to 8 percent bigger than in the morning – and
wear the socks or hosiery you’d normally wear with that
style of shoe. Allow around a half-inch of space between
your longest toe and the shoe. Round toes are best
because they give toes room to move.

Many of us simply don’t follow that advice. How many pairs
of shoes do you own that pinch, cramp or cripple your toes
and heels? Numerous studies show the health dangers of
too tight shoes. What risks do you run when you squeeze
your feet into your heels? Aside from the dollars you spent
on your fashionable shoes, what price are you paying with
your health?

Here are the Top 10 Health Dangers of wearing shoes that
are too tight:

Too Tight Shoes Can Make Bunions Worse

Bunions make their presence known as a lump or bump at
the base of your big toe, on the side of your foot. Bunions
occur when the big toe is pushed out of position, causing it
to press against your other toes. Not surprisingly, ill-fitting
and tight shoes are often to blame. Bunions are brought
about by years of squashing feet into tight shoes and can
be extremely painful if left untreated.

Bunions are mostly a problem for women. In fact,
according to the American  Academy of Orthopaedic
Surgeons,  90% of all bunion sufferers are women. And
over half of all American women have bunions.

Padding and taping are the first steps in a treatment plan,
along with medication and physical therapy. Sometimes
surgery, which can cost upwards of $5,000, is the only
option.  The procedure involves breaking the toe joint and
realigning it with the rest of your foot.  

Victoria Beckham is one of the celebrities who has suffered
for her love of high-fashion shoes. She packs her painful
feet with ice at the end of the day and is faced with the
prospect of donning a pair of sensible flats or having an
operation to relieve her bunions.

Heel Pain Is A Common Danger From Too Tight Shoes

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association’s
2009 survey, 43 percent of Americans experienced heel
pain in that year. Six in 10 of these people reported having
had trouble with daily activities due to heel pain. According
to surgeons at the 2010 Annual Scientific Conference of the
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons in Las Vegas,
heel pain is the most common reason people seek medical
help for their feet. The heel bone is the largest of 26 bones
in the foot and the heel boasts more than 100 tendons,
muscles, and ligaments running through it.

Heel pain is a common problem caused by too tight shoes,
as well as from bruising resulting from injury, or foot stress
due to weight gain.

Heel pain can occur at the front, back or bottom of the
heel. Wearing correctly fitting shoes, choosing the right
shoes to exercise in and changing your shoes when they
show signs of wear can all help prevent this painful

Too Tight Shoes Can Cause Deformed Toes

The scarily-named condition hammertoe gives your pinkies
a claw-like appearance. Hammertoe is a deformity of the
toes that is caused by bending the toe joints out of shape
so they curl up instead of lying flat. Wearing shoes that are
too short and cramp your toes can cause hammertoe.
People with diabetes are also prone to the condition.

Change to loose fitting shoes to protect the feet and reduce
pressure on the joints and visit your physician to cure the
condition. Kids should have regular changes to their shoes
as their feet grow, in order to avoid toe deformity that can
be crippling in adult life.

Too Tight Shoes Put Diabetics  At Risk for Ulcers and

Diabetics are at risk of serious foot injuries such as ulcers,
which can create wounds that sufferers do not feel due to
a diminished skin sensation. Diabetes makes wounds heal
more slowly. Ulcers can become infected if left untreated
and the resulting foot injury can lead to amputation.

According to a 2010 study conducted by Thomson Reuters
in association with the American Podiatric Medical
Association, 30 percent of people with diabetes over age
40 have diabetes-related foot problems and about a
quarter of diabetic foot ulcers eventually require

But then researchers discovered the power of preventative
measures. Diabetes ulcer sufferers who saw both a
podiatrist and a specialist medical doctor during the year
before an ulcer diagnosis was made were much less likely
to need amputation - up to 31 percent less likely.

Poorly fitting shoes can play a big part in the problem. It’s
even more important if you suffer from diabetes that you
make sure you get your feet measured before every new
pair of shoes and choose a style with plenty of cushioning
and space for the toes.


In fact, wearing tight shoes if you are diabetic can be the
triggering event that causes the development of "diabetic
foot syndrome", a German study reports.

A  2004 study from the Klinikum München-Schwabing in
München-Schwabing, Germany described so-called diabetic
foot syndrome  --which includes a range of progressive
worse foot problems from ulcers to nerve damage
(neuropathy) to amputation, These foot problems often
start from certain "triggering factors", including wearing
too tight shoes, introduction of foreign infections to your
feet, inadequate foot care and foot deformities.  The study
concluded that rteaching diabetics to inspect their feet
daily, take proper care of them and to wear proper fitting
shoes could cut the rate of amputations by 60% to 70%.]

Heels That Are Too Tight Can Damage Your Health

If your shoe of choice is a stiletto or high heel, you could
be storing up double trouble for your health. Along with
contributing to heel pain
, high heels and shoes with little
support cause 64 percent of women to report hind-foot
pain according to a 2010 study from the Institute for Aging
Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston
. High heels can
your Achilles heel over time.

A shortened Achilles heel reduces the range of movement
in your feet, making you "walk like you're old".

2010 research by researchers from tManchester
Metropolitan University, UK, and the University of Vienna,
Austria, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology,
found that high heel wearers’ calf muscle fibers were 13
percent shorter than those of the women who wore flat
shoes. The Achilles tendon compensated for the shorter
muscles in the calf, allowing heel wearers to walk normally,
but the women in the study reported discomfort when they
changed to flats because the tendon couldn’t stretch easily
back into place.

According to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle
Society, you should wear shoes no more than two and a
quarter inches high and not for longer than two or three
hours a day.


In fact, heel pain is the most common foot problem,
affecting 2 million of us a year, according to the American
Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Using shoe inserts and
doing stretching of your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia
foot provides relief after 8 weeks to 95% of patients.]

Too Tight Shoes Cause Aching Feet

Over time, the fat padding on the bottom of your feet thins,
making aching feet a more frequent complaint. Ill-fitting
shoes simply speed up the process, as does wearing shoes
for sport that don’t fit properly or lack padding on the

To avoid aching feet when you pound the treadmill or hit
the tarmac, choose your shoes carefully. Check you have
enough room at the toe and at the widest part of your foot
and make sure your heel stays in place at the back of the
shoe when you run.

Take plenty of test runs, or bounces, in the store to make
sure you have the best fit. Never buy running shoes that
are too small, whatever they cost in the sale.

Athlete's Foot From Ill-Fitting Shoes

Despite the name, athlete’s foot isn’t just for long distance
runners. Put on a pair of too tight pumps for a long period
of time and you’re a prime target for the condition. Athlete’
s foot is a scaly, itchy, burning condition between the toes
or on the sole caused by microscopic fungi. The
microorganisms love to hang out in warm, moist places and
your sweaty, tight fitting shoes are just perfect. If you
suffer from athlete’s foot, wash your feet daily, dry
carefully and apply anti-fungal medication and foot
powder. Give your feet plenty of air with loose-fitting, light
shoes and change your socks regularly.

Too Tight Shoes Cause Blisters, Corns and Calluses

If you’re regularly wearing a shoe that’s too small you’re
rubbing against the sensitive skin on your feet. Over time
your body tries to protect the spot by creating a fluid-filled
blister. Blisters can be irritating and painful, giving you a
limp and starting your day off on the wrong foot. Your skin
also protects itself from ill-fitting shoes by forming hard
skin over the irritation, called corns. Flat, thick and yellow
calluses form on the sole of the foot.

The easiest way to prevent corns, calluses and blisters is to
wear shoes that fit well. If like many millions of women you’
ve already worn tight shoes for too long, use a pumice
stone to gently file hard skin. Pad your blister – don’t burst
it – for comfort while the skin heals.

Ingrown Toenails Come From Too Tight Shoes

Make sure your feet have plenty of wiggle-room or you
could be facing a painful problem. Ingrown toenails are
often caused by too tight shoes. Tight fitting socks or
stockings can also cause ingrown toenails.

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edges of a toenail
grow into the soft skin around the toe causing pain and
sometimes infection. To remove the pain of ingrown
toenail, soak your toe in warm water and very gently push
the skin away from the nail. Prevent ingrown toenails by
choosing the correct shoe and by cutting your nails
carefully. Don’t cut round the corners for a curved
appearance or cut your nails too short.

Swollen Ankles From Too Tight Shoes

Many hours on your feet in too tight shoes can cause fluid
to build up in your ankles, making them swell.  According to
the American Podiatric Medical Association’s 2009 survey,
nearly 25 percent of Americans spend a full six hours or
more a day on their feet.

Shoes that are tight fitting or uncomfortable can make
symptoms of swollen ankles worse. If your favorite shoes
are too tight and you can’t throw them away, prevent
swollen ankles, pain and blisters by stretching them.

Try pulling on a thick pair of socks, squeezing your foot
into the shoe and blasting the tight areas with a hot
hairdryer. Keep the shoes on your feet as they cool and
check the fit afterwards with your normal socks.


Too Tight Shoes Can Cause Toenail Infection

Research has found that wearing shoes that are too tight
can increase your chances for
toenail infection. The reason
is simple: tight shoes restrict the amount of air to your feet,
encouraging the growth of toenail fungus.

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Sarah Jessica Parker recently disclosed that her feet have grown
an extra bone from wearing what she called "cheap" shoes for her
role in the 2011 movie  "I Don't Know How Does She Does It".
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