Shoes are damaging women's health

By ROBIN YAPP, Daily Mail

Women are seriously damaging their feet by squeezing into shoes that are too small, experts warned yesterday.

The desire to be trendy comes at a price - with some suffering ingrown toenails, bunions or foot deformities that can make walking agony and may need surgery.

Up to 85 per cent of the population - both men and women - buy ill-fitting footwear, according to leading podiatric surgeon Trevor Prior.

Women are thought to be mainly swayed by fashion, but Mr Prior said: "People should treat the wearing of tight shoes like they do the eating of rich foods - something they do once in a while for a treat."

Prized possessions

That will come as a shock to the many women who, like Carrie Bradshaw - Sarah Jessica Parker's character in Sex and the City - regard their shoe collection as their most prized possession.

Mr Prior said he is concerned at the initial results of a study he is leading at the Homerton Hospital in East London. "We have seen almost 100 people so far and the vast majority were wearing shoes that were too small," he added.

"The last time most had their feet measured was as teenagers. But feet do grow as you get older."

Lorraine Jones, of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said some women will go to any lengths to look fashionable.


There have even been extreme cases of women having their little toes amputated to fit their feet into their favourite footwear.

But sensible shoes with low heels and rounded ends that allow the foot to "breathe" suffer from an image problem.

"Women's shoes are not designed for walking," said Miss Jones. "A slip-on has to be smaller than the foot to stay on. The average court shoe has to be at least half an inch narrower than the foot, so your foot cannot function normally.

"We tend to associate low-heeled, round-toed shoes with a lace or buckle with someone a bit frumpy. Most women do not want to look like that. Half the physiotherapists and podiatrists would be out of a job if people wore the right shoes."

'Wriggle room'

Experts say there should be some "wriggle room" - a gap of at least one centimetre at the toe. And they say retailers and shoe makers could do more to help customers.

Jemma Klein, a chiropodist in North London who sees 600 patients a year, said: "People come hobbling in wearing the same sized shoe they wore as teenagers. I see people in their early 20s with hammer toes and claw toes which are down to the wrong shoes."

Claw toe is where the toe joint nearest the foot bends upwards and the other joints bend downwards.

Hammer toe is where the middle joint curls downwards. Many chiropodists now advise regular shoe-size checks - like going to the dentist or optician - and even for shop assistants to go on day courses.

But Bob Hardy, of Clark's shoes, said: "If you were to suggest to most of our customers that they should try a larger size, they would tell you to mind your own business."

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